by James Coburn – staff writer
Dianna McNeal says nursing may be the career to pursue if you love taking care of people through their good and bad moments of health.
“I know if I’m able to be there for somebody, and if and their family doesn’t come and see them, I’m always going to try putting a smile on their face and cheer them up,” said McNeal, a licensed practical nurse at St. Ann’s Skilled Nursing and Therapy, located in Oklahoma City. (STORY CONTINUES BELOW)
She came to St. Ann’s Skilled Nursing and Therapy two years ago and is a graduate of Metro Technology Center in Oklahoma City. She plans to work toward becoming a registered nurse this year by enrolling in Langston University’s LPN to RN program that she said began in 2021. Her aunt is a retired nurse practitioner from the Veterans Administration Hospital in Oklahoma City.
“She actually purchased a lot of my books. She was kind of like the backbone for me,” McNeal said. “I told her I wanted to go in the nursing field. If that’s what I wanted to do, she said she was going to be behind me and help me get through school. If I had any questions, she had a whole stack of books.”
McNeal hopes to remain at St. Ann’s Skilled Nursing and Therapy where she has bonded with residents there. (STORY CONTINUES BELOW)
“I’ve got a little extended family here and I’m very family oriented,” she said.
Nurses there are always willing to help or give advice whenever there is a need. And the certified nurse aides know that she is always available to help them, too. She tells them whenever they need assistance to ask her to help.
“They’re not afraid to come ask me about anything. I admire that about them,” she said.
Someone was always willing to answer her questions during her orientation two years ago. And McNeal said her career has taught her to be more patient.
“Sometimes if it’s overwhelming you’ve just got to breathe,” she said.
A gentle communicative approach is a good quality to have when entering a nursing home resident’s room, McNeal said. It’s best to enter a room with a smile, even when a nurse isn’t feeling good that day, she said.
“If they see a smile on your face, it might brighten their day. They may have had a bad night,” she explained. “You come in being soft-spoken and gentle with them and say, ‘Can I help you with something?’ They might need a hug that day like you might need a hug.”
McNeal has also been a hospice nurse. She would naturally bond with residents before they would pass away. Some would often call her their BFF (best friend forever). When someone dies, their families will post obituaries in the report room.
“Some days when I’m feeling down, I will go to the report room and look at one of the patients and remember. It will cheer us up and make us laugh. We’ll say, ‘I sure do miss this person,’” McNeal continued.
Being a good listener helps as a hospice nurse, McNeal said. People need to vent their fears and concerns. They need their questions answered.
“Some of them want us to read a Bible with them or they want to just talk and hold hands,” McNeal said. “Even some of them didn’t have family that would really come and see them.”
And now that she is a regular LPN at St. Ann’s Skilled Nursing & Therapy, those residents often tell her they are glad to see her back after she has been gone for a weekend or vacation. Residents also make new friends with other residents. The staff tries to get them to socialize out of their rooms as much as possible, she said.
“Some of them might be sitting in their room. We’ll say to come on out and sit with (others) and play Bingo or something — try to spruce them up a little bit,” McNeal added. “We’ll say, ’There’s more than being in this room. Let’s try something different today. It might make you smile.’”
It’s all part of being a nurse in a skilled unit or long-term care center. She encourages anyone who feels passionate about becoming a nurse to answer their calling.
“It’s going to be a tough road, but it will be rewarding,” McNeal said.
When residents ask her about what she does to relax, she tells them she sits at home with her two boys watching Lifetime or their sports activities. Her boys are students at Millwood High School and are on the Millwood Falcons basketball team.
For more information on St. Ann’s Skilled Nursing & Therapy, visit: