by James Coburn
HealthBack Home Health is more like a family than a job for Nena Ray. Ray, RN, serves as the administrator of HealthBack Home Health over six locations in the state spanning Henryetta, Holdenville, Seminole, Shawnee, Oklahoma City and Wichita, Kansas.
“They take really good care of their employees,” Ray said. “Our wages are great; our hours are great. They’re flexible with us. They’re personable. You’re not a number.”
Ray said she works with excellent nurses. At several of the HealthBack locations, Ray has worked with them for the entire time she has served HealthBack.
“They’ve seen me go from the bottom to the top,” Ray said.
The company supports the staff to take steps needed for a successful career. HealthBack believes in promoting from within the company, Ray said, rather than to hire from outside the company.
“They are very much about bettering yourself,” she said. “If they can offer you classes or the support system and experience that you need, the flexibility and the hours that you need to go back to school; that’s what they do. That’s exactly what they did for me. I’ve seen it done for other nurses.”
Ray has been a registered nurse for about eight years. She was an LPN for about a year and had been a CNA before becoming an RN. She is a graduate of Seminole State College. Her career has always focused on home health except for working as a CNA in a nursing home a long time ago.
Ray started out at HealthBack as a home health aide in 2004. She worked her way through school with the support of HealthBack. She was a regular field nurse. As an RN she went from roving and training other offices and was promoted to a supervisor over one HealthBack branch.
“From there I got promoted to what they call a supervising RN role where you help the field nurses in multiple offices,” Ray said. “And then from there I went to an administrator over six locations.”
Not only do the employees rise to their personal best. They uphold values that translate to quality patient care.
The nursing staff is compassionate, Ray said. They do not treat patients as a piece of paper or a name on a schedule. They treat the patient as a family member, she said.
“They bring more to the patients as far as caring and treating them like a human being and not just something for us to make money off of,” Ray said. “And so that’s what it takes to be a really good nurse. And it’s teamwork. Communication is No. 1 in nursing. If you don’t have communication, you don’t have anything else.
“If you can’t communicate with your office and your patients, that patient falls through the cracks. They never let a patient fall through the cracks.”
If a HealthBack nurse must work for hours to get that done — they do. That’s what makes a good company, Ray said.
“That’s what makes my job easy,” she explained.
Her stepping stones from being a home health aide to administrator have etched her professional mindset with empathy.
“I still give baths to this day,” Ray said. “I don’t have that mentality that just because I’m an RN, I’m going to leave that to the bath aide. Absolutely not. If I walk into a patient’s house and they need a bath, if they need personal care, I’m going to do it. I’m not below that.”
She has always had a personality leading her to help people, she continued. Most nurses don’t chose their profession for the money, she explained.
“They are a helper. They see someone, an older lady who is walking through Walmart and she drops her purse. They stop and pick it up,” Ray said. “That’s just what you do. It’s not something you think about. It’s natural.”
Ray became a nurse knowing she wanted to make things better. The best profession she could think of was to become a nurse. Helping people is a great profession, she said.
“You can watch them go from their death bed to now walking every day. Or they’re enjoying another Christmas with their family,” Ray said. “Or they’re doing something they wanted to do but they couldn’t do six months ago.”
“It’s very rewarding to see what can happen and the gratefulness that most people show you.”
When a nurse goes into a patient’s home, they are there to be respectful because they are a caring person. Their main goal is the health of that person. It’s not about their living environment, belief systems or how many cats they have, Ray said.
“You need to make them feel comfortable. You need to make them feel they are part of the family — that you are not judging them because they’ve been sick for six months and can’t clean the house,” Ray said.
This goes a long way with patients, she continued, because many of them are self conscious about their home or their personal care.
Her love of life extends to the community and not just her personal life.
“I do a lot in the community and it is rewarding to me to be able to do good for someone else,” she said. “And so, whether they ever pay you back, or whether they ever say thank you, whether they ever pat you on the back and say you did a great job, none of that matters.”
“What matters to me is how I feel at the end of the day. That’s what keeps me going.”