by James Coburn – staff writer
Rebecca Slavens loves providing God’s work as a nurse. She fell in love with the elderly when she came to work at Stillwater Creek Skilled Nursing & Therapy in 1996.
“I feel like he’s led me to be here and help the elderly,” said Slavens, LPN and charge nurse.
Her grandparents were gone while she was growing up in New Mexico and Colorado. At age 18 she moved to Stillwater. Three years later she became a licensed practical nurse. At first, she was just looking for employment and applied for housekeeping. The nursing home offered her a job as a CNA until a position in housekeeping opened there. (story continues below)
“I told the lady I didn’t know anything about that line of work. And she said, ‘‘Don’t worry, we will train you,’” Slavens recalled.
Being a CNA brought her to admire a group of nurses who wanted to help people in need. She remains a strong defender of the elderly today. The nursing staff could choose to work somewhere else.
“But they chose here. There is just something about helping somebody that helps you as well,” Slavens said.
Her compassion and grace were put to work in early 2020 as COVID began challenging life in America. Nurses began hearing about a deadly disease spreading through Oklahoma. The numbers were not good.
“When it came to our building it spread like a wildfire,” Slavens said.
A core group of nurses didn’t give up as others left the profession. Nurses at Stillwater Creek Skilled Nursing & Therapy didn’t bury their head in the sand. They faced the facts by educating themselves about the pandemic and adopted best practices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It was a very trying time just watching everybody work alongside with you,” she said. “All members of the team from the housekeepers to administration — just watching them work together to take care of them and going through the sadness when we lost one of the residents was quite a trying time. It brought us closer together.”
She attributes her strength of character to Jesus Christ, the residents, and her fellow co-workers. Slavens will never forget the patient-centered care she has witnessed by staff to the residents.
One CNA set an example of working long hours through the weekends. There were barely enough CNAs on staff due to COVID, but Denise went above and beyond expectations to provide the residents more care, Slavens said.
“It was just seeing those people put in extra hours to be there because the residents needed it,” she continued.
Slavens said sadly, she sees fewer nurses applying for positions as there were before the pandemic. COVID burnout and the pre-existing nursing shortage have increased the employment gap.
“We’re feeling that,” she said.
Her grandchildren fill a lot of her leisure time. Slavens re-energizes by going to church and reading.
“I focus on family when I’m not here,” she said.
Her extended family includes the residents making their home at Stillwater Creek Skilled Nursing & Therapy.
“I’ve worked here a long time and I hear a lot of stories, and I enjoy hearing them and they enjoy it. They enjoy reminiscing about their past when they were young and their children when they were little,” Slavens said.
She learns of their careers and even painful times of the residents’ lives. Many intriguing people have conversed with Slavens through the years. Professors, doctors, engineers, housewives, and farmers have shared sentiments with Slavens.
Nurses who have spent decades helping patients have become residents at Stillwater Creek as well. Some of them bring empathy to their bedside.
“Some of them will tell you, ‘I know what it’s like. I was a nurse, too. Just take your time,’” Slavens added. “And some are very firm because they used to be a nurse. They know how it should be done.”
Being a nurse is unlike any other job, she said. Nursing stands out among other careers that bring a human connection, Slavens said.
“It’s watching a patient improve in health, and watching them sometimes leave here,” she said. “They get their rehab, and you watch their daily achievements and getting to go home, or being with a patient that’s dying, and you are there with their families to make their last moments more comfortable — as peaceful as it can be with them.”
Slavens cherishes the friendships made with family members. A special bond develops as families know her by name.
“They trust you and that’s very important. They are leaving their family members here and entrusting them with people they don’t know to take care of them,” Slavens said. “Once they know us and trust us, they know they can go to you.”
For more information visit: www.stillwatercreekok.com