by James Coburn – staff writer
Nursing is a legacy of love for Rachel Evans.
Eleven years ago, Evans was hired at Westhaven Nursing Home in Stillwater and found Westhaven to be a good company to work for. It’s not uncommon for nurses to change their arena of employment. But she continues to work there out of a love for the residents she gets to know. Her flexibility in leadership roles has been an asset for her and those she serves.
“They grow their employees here. I started out as a CNA and then was a restorative aide, went to nursing school and worked as an LPN on the floor and was a skilled nurse.”
Evans now serves as assistant director of nursing eight years after earning her LPN license. Her role as the assistant director of nursing lets her assist in managing the nursing staff, including lab work and overseeing the charge nurses. Her expertise also focuses greatly on infection control.
Westhaven Nursing Home is licensed for 125 beds. The current census accommodates about 78 residents, she said.
Having been a CNA became a valuable asset to her nursing career, she said. She has learned something new with each experience of patient care. She is empathetic to the CNA’s needs. “They’re your eyes. They see things sometimes that nurses sometimes would not see when we get in a hurry,” Evans said. “Physically it’s a tiring job, but you get to spend a lot of one-on-one time with the residents. You get to know them as a nurse, too. You get to form really close relationships with the residents. It’s a family environment. The nurses have their hearts in it.”
Nurses rise to their call of duty. They will sit and talk to residents they notice are having a rough day, Evans said. (story continues below)
Sometimes a good listener is what the residents need. Somebody to sit down and talk to them is comforting, she said. Nurses are known for going above and beyond for the residents’ needs in any way they can.
“My grandpa was a patient here a couple of years back on skilled nursing. We had one CNA who knew he was a big biscuit eater. She would go and make sure he had his extra biscuits in the morning. Sometimes she would even go and get him ice cream before work,” said Evans, who described herself as a grandpa’s girl. He had a stroke when she started CNA school fresh out of high school.
“I fell in love with geriatrics, and I think it all started with him,” she said. “He was my best friend and he continued to get sicker, and I continued to take care of him, and I just fell in love with it.”
“So, my grandpa is why I started this journey in nursing,” she said.
She developed a deep affinity with Westhaven from the day she was hired. The resident’s told her the best stories about what life had meant to them.
Being a nurse in long-term care is one of the most rewarding careers. At the same time, it can be hard to endure at times. A lot of patients have made an enduring, heartfelt impression on Evans. She said nurses can become very attached to their patients as well as their family members.
There were many unknown variables when the COVID-19 pandemic hit for the first time in 2020.
“A lot of the residents were scared,” she said. “I had one patient who looked at me. He was scared because he had just tested positive. I reassured him that he was going to be okay and we were going to fight to make sure he got through this. We tried to help him focus on the positives,” she explained. “He asked me what his outcomes were. I said I don’t know, but when you can’t fight, I’ll fight for you. That was probably one of the most touching experiences I’ve had with a patient.”
Being a nurse is like having an extended family, she said. Her caring heart serves to add comfort to life. She helps with their transition to a new environment away from the familiarity of home.
“I think a lot of it is getting to know them, what they used to do previously and more about their lives and things that they like,” she said. “We talk to them and try to get their history and everything.”
Residents become engaged in activities. Family members give a lot of input to the staff during care plan meetings.
For more information on Westhaven Nursing Home visit: https://www.westhavenstillwater.com/