by James Coburn – Writer/Photographer
Maribeth DeCarlo enjoys working for a company where patients are family and the staff is involved, she said. The nursing staff gives a lot of personal attention to their patients at Innova Home Health, said Decarlo, RN, clinical director of Innova Home Health, located in Oklahoma City.
“I have people call me all the time at night and they’re still working,” she said. “It’s not about hours. It’s about the quality of care we can provide for the patients.”
Home health is becoming more important with a growing emphasis with all the changes in health care. She said there is a niche of patients who are not ready to enter into long-term care but they can’t do some things on their own.
“They need support and assistance and they don’t want to move into a facility where someone takes care of them.They want to be independent,” DeCarlo said.
Home health gives patients the ability to maintain their independence at home longer. Health care can be confusing for anybody, DeCarlo said. So she asks how can older people who may already have issues with memory understand maneuvering through the process.
“It’s nice that we also get to provide the time,” she continued. “I get to sit down in somebody’s house and have a conversation with them. You don’t have a light ringing. You don’t have a phone ringing. You have personal time one-on-one with your patient.”
A lot of people envision home health as the way it was decades ago when it had not evolved, she said. Now it is a necessary piece of health care giving help to patients at home who are not ready to enter the realm of other levels of care.
Medicare assists with home health and is a necessary part for those patients who receive it, she said. Some insurance companies are very good at providing home health services as long as the clinical support is given and communications are effective between the home health company and insurance company, DeCarlo said.
“Some insurances are not very good. Some insurances will give your five or 10 visits at a time. Some of them will give you 10 or 15 visits for the year and that’s all you get no matter what,” DeCarlo said. “Medicaid used to be 30 visits per year and that may have changed because they just reduced most Medicaid benefits by 25 percent (in Oklahoma).”
She has discovered a valued relationship with her patients and her journey to the world of health care is heartfelt for DeCarlo.
“I’ve always felt a person needs a purpose,” she said.
DeCarlo is a nursing school graduate of OSU/OKC where she earned her degree in 2007. She had previously earned an associate’s degree for substance abuse counseling before switching her bachelor’s degree major to nursing with the thought of working in the arena of chemical dependency.
She found there were few detox units in Oklahoma City. This limited her options as she was working weekends for a long time. A friend who worked as a nurse in home health convinced her to become a home health nurse where her hours would be more flexible by working days with her weekends off.
“I went into home health and it was such a refreshing change to be so much more involved with your patients,” DeCarlo said. “You have a lot more say-so about what you can provide for a patient. When you work in a hospital, you don’t have that leniency.”
“I love home health. You get to really see the improvement of your patients’ lives more than you do in a hospital.”
She had also spent four years in an Oklahoma City hospital working as a mental health tech while in nursing school. And at the hospital she worked some in a psych unit with her psycho/social background.
This translated well to a career in home health where empathy and understanding lends itself to providing education to patients, she said.
“When you’re trying to get somebody to improve their whole lifestyle it is helpful,” DeCarlo said. “But the reason I became a nurse is because I like people, it wasn’t because I was necessarily interested in the medical side.”
DeCarlo’s father was a physician who talked about medicine at the dinner table when she was growing up in Oklahoma City. Her brother went to medical school and always joined in the conversations about medicine.
She learned that nursing would provide her a range of options to explore in a career. She interviewed with several companies before choosing Innova Home Health.
“I like the fact that this is a smaller company where patients are our family,” she said. “We get to know them and I know all my staff. It’s like a family here. And I like that. I don’t want my patients to be a number. They are a person.”
Having a job where she actually makes the world a better place is never a hassle. DeCarlo doesn’t feel like she’s going to work when she wakes up. The effort is seamless and led by compassion.
“I look forward to being here. It’s not like when I was younger and I was just making a paycheck,” she said. DeCarlo enjoys hearing about her patients hobbies and personal histories.
“I love to cook,” she said. “I’m engaged and we’re going to be married in October. So I spend time with him. He’s a nurse and he works in Elk City so he’s here 60 percent of the time. I’m involved in recovery. That’s my interest, chemical dependency and substance abuse. So I’m involved in AA.”