by James Coburn – Writer/Photographer
Kourtney Hamilton, RN, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 12. Her experience with doctors and nurses served to motivate her to enter the nursing profession, she said.
“It’s something I wanted to be a part of. It’s something I grew up with,” said Hamilton, the new director of Nursing at Grace Living Center Brookwood, located in Oklahoma City.
Having been brand new to diabetes at a young age makes her think today that she never left the nursing environment.
“It’s just something I wanted to do. I loved the way they were so helpful,” she continued. “I wanted to do what they do. I wanted to be helpful like they are.”
A number of the Grace residents also live with diabetes as well as other conditions. The nurses are trained to respond to their residents’ needs.
“Luckily in long-term care you get to know those people. They live here and this is their home. So we have nurses with a lot of tenure here and they learn about those people,” Hamilton explained.
These keen observation skills come into play when a resident begins acting differently.
“Especially with diabetes, sometimes their actions or their behaviors are directly related. And so they can certainly recognize a difference in someone because they know what their norm is,” Hamilton said.
The nursing staff knows what a resident normally eats for breakfast or whether they need an afternoon snack.
“You learn from living here with them,” Hamilton said. “We spend a lot of time together.”
Hamilton said she likes the determination to take on life that the elders possess.
They lived as part of a different generation and experienced the rich cultural history of decades ago.
“A lot of them I love for keeping up with the times. They have cell phones and some of them have Facebook,” she said. “So they’re just able to adapt and keep moving and learning with the learning curve of technology which is huge for so many of them.
“Even the ones that don’t have life experiences that they can share put a different spin on our younger population at work.”
Grace includes a Bridges unit, which is the skilled unit. Skilled nursing is very different from long-term care, she said. A common denominator is everyone is treated the same. The goal of skilled nursing is to help patients recover and return home, she said.
“We do a really good job at that,” Hamilton lauded. “Our rehab and our skilled nurses help those people get back to the life they are used to living,” Hamilton said. “We try to adapt as much as we can while they’re here to accommodate what their life was like before.”
For long-term care, the nursing staff does not want residents to give up on activities they did at home. So the activities director will interview the long-term care residents about what they enjoy doing. Their interests are accommodated, no matter what, as long as they are reasonable.
Grace residents were welcoming to Hamilton when she accepted her new role at the south OKC campus. She had been at Brookwood since March of 2015, serving as the quality manager before she became DON in January.
“They already knew me as a nurse they went to with issues and things,” Hamilton said. “But the biggest challenge was following Betty Kuhlman, who had been director of nursing for 19 years.”
Being DON for 19 years is rare in the profession, Hamilton said. “She developed the team that is here and led them. Following those difficult footsteps was what I thought was going to be the most difficult part.”
“But they’ve been really great. Betty has been overly supportive. She’s still here, and she’s been a wonderful resource to have. I’m so glad to have her right next door.”
Hamilton loves the way the nursing staff handles each day with a strong work ethic and compassion. They always are willing to learn.
Hamilton earned her RN degree at Platt College in Oklahoma City by completing their LPN to RN program in 2010. She began her career as an LVN in Texas. An LVN is the equivalent of an LPN in Oklahoma.
I worked in a doctor’s office starting out and I did double weekends in a nursing home,” Hamilton said.
She enjoyed working with older senior adults, so when she moved to Oklahoma City she joined the staff of Grace Living Center Edmond in 2006. She has been with Grace nearly a decade. She left a couple of times but returned. It’s the people at Grace Living Center that she works with that refreshes her longevity. It’s her connections at Grace that make her feel welcomed each day, she said.
“It’s the atmosphere and the support that you get,” Hamilton said.
Such support is not always evident elsewhere, she added. She credits the home office for abundant training, support and professional growth in her career.
“You’re only a phone call away. They will help you with anything you need,” she said. “So that’s been very helpful.”
Being an active nurse also calls for rejuvenation on her days off. What does she do? She and her husband spend time with their growing family.
“I have two little boys and I don’t know if that equals relaxation, but I have a 3 year old and a 5 year old,” she said. “They definitely keep me very busy. We have a lot of fun, cut loose and relax. We do that at work, too. I like to laugh.”