Witherell’s Nurses: Care Delivered with Compassion and Skill
Nurses are the backbone of any healthcare facility, and that’s especially true in skilled nursing. The Nathaniel Witherell is quite lucky in this regard; our nursing team is second to none and our dedicated nurses are specialists in elder care. As a town-owned and operated facility, our nursing culture is supportive, welcoming, and nurturing. Perhaps that’s why so many of our nurses have worked their entire careers at the Witherell! In fact, the Witherell’s nursing staff turnover rate is more than six times lower than the national average.
To mark National Nurses Week, we spoke with Nadia Benson, RN, Deputy Director of Nursing, who oversees the approximately 69 registered nurses and licensed practical nurses and 150 certified nursing assistants at the Witherell. Here, Nadia shares insight into the care her team provides, and the role nurses play in helping seniors thrive in skilled nursing.
Q: How is caring for the elderly different than caring for other adult patients?
Caring for the elderly in a nursing home can be challenging because, initially, they are transitioning from all the routines and environments they’ve come to know. So, while a resident may be experiencing medical or social issues, they’re also having to learn new daily routines, new menus, and daily self-care in a place that is not their home. Dignity issues are so important in senior care and can never be lost when caring for residents with varying levels of cognitive ability.
Q: What qualities do you look for in the nurses you hire?
The most important qualities for our nurses are compassion, empathy, problem solving skills, kindness, priority-setting, customer service skills and being a team member. Needless to say, our nurses also need to meet the requirements for licensure and are required to update their certifications as needed. All new nursing hires go through orientation where they are taught how to communicate with the elderly, the rights of the residents, disease-related care, the impact of certain medications on the elderly, and skin care. Ongoing staff development throughout the year is provided as refreshers or to provide education on practice changes.
Q: What do nurses in a skilled nursing facility do?
Registered nurses assess each resident’s medical condition and monitor medication efficacy, care planning, and communicate with the resident’s MD/APRN and family members. The RN supervises the LPNs and the CNAs as they perform their tasks to assure compliance to policies and procedures as regulated by the State of Connecticut and the standards of nursing practice. RNs also respond to emergencies when needed.
Q: What’s a typical day like?
A day starts with a quick assessment of the unit. Reports from the previous shift are provided by the off-going staff. A morning huddle takes place to assure that any pertinent information is shared with the team and questions can be raised by staff. The morning is spent providing personal care, like bathing and dressing residents. Meals are provided and those needing eating assistance are supported. Our nurses administer necessary medications for all residents per State guidelines and nursing practice. They’ll monitor vital signs and do finger sticks for those who have diabetes. Our charge nurse (an RN) will monitor residents for medical issues. She/he will also supervise the Medication nurse and the CNAs. Communication is a key component of the charge nurse’s role. She/he updates the daily assignment as needed and assures the thoroughness and appropriateness of the care provided. The patient care coordinator (PCC) has the 24-hour accountability of the units they are responsible for, and communication is key for this role, too. The PCC teaches, guides, councils, promotes team building, and facilitates care through the staff they oversee. We all ensure that the rights of every patient are followed and that all residents are treated with dignity.
Q: Many Witherell nurses have worked here a long time. How does that benefit the residents?
Many residents spend a long time living in a nursing home. When there is staff consistency, strong relationships develop between residents and staff. Knowing a resident well helps the staff easily detect changes in medical conditions. Care is more fluid when the resident is well known.
Q: What should family members know about the care their loved ones are receiving?
At the Witherell, family members can have peace of mind knowing that compassionate care is provided daily. The commitment and responsibility our staff have for our residents was exemplified during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the uncertainties of that time, our staff came to work daily to make sure our residents were well cared for and had the social and mental stimulation they needed to fight isolation. Our staff had to endure a very difficult time along with isolation from their own families. The selflessness they displayed exemplifies the incredible care they provide.