CAREERS IN NURSING
NURSING AN EXTENSION OF CARING HOME: WILLOWOOD OF MUSTANG
by Traci Chapman – Writer/Photographer
For LPN Juliet Bowers, nursing is a very personal thing, something that hits close to home every day of her life.
“Every day it’s about the stories of the people we are helping, making their lives better and them happier,” Bowers said. “I know firsthand how important it is to offer that kind of help, that support and comfort, and how much of a difference it really can make.”
Bowers’ knowledge of nursing’s impact lies as close to her heart as possible. As the mother of a special needs child, now 17, she deals everyday with someone who cannot communicate, who will never live an independent life – and that experience has helped Bowers in her chosen field of more than 25 years, not only as a nurse, but also as an assisted living facility wellness director.
“It’s amazing how many parallels there are to my child and many of our residents, particularly with those who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s, conditions like that,” Bowers said.
Bowers in February joined Willowood at Mustang, an assisted living and memory care facility where she became director of wellness. While the job was new, it wasn’t completely unfamiliar – in fact, it was kind of like going home, as she joined new Willowood Executive Director Kim Bowles in her latest endeavor.
“We have worked together for more than 17 years, we started together in Waureka, and she is just someone who really brings the staff together and allows all of us – nursing staff and everyone else – to do our best every day,” Bowers said.
Bowers’ longtime career was exactly what she was meant to do, she said – but it didn’t start out as her first choice.
“I was living in Comanche and working at the U.S. Customs Service in Lawton when there was a downturn,” Bowers said. “I was at a crossroads and we had the chance to take part in the displaced worker program and study nursing, so that’s what I did.
“I’ve never for one moment regretted the change, and love helping people every single day more than I could ever say,” she said.
That dedication made Bowers a perfect fit as Willowood’s wellness director, executive director Bowles said. In that capacity, Bowers supervises a nursing staff of about 25 members and is charged with a myriad of issues involving residents’ health.
“Whether it’s coordinating with home health, looking at their medications, making sure they’re happy and engaged, how they are feeling – just all of it is what I really handle,” Bowers said. “It’s my job to make sure all of our residents have the best health they possibly can.”
While that job description might sound basic, it’s not so simple. Willowood’s recent transition to a Meridian Senior Living facility posed the usual challenges associated with an ownership change; a newly completed expansion of its memory care unit meant the chance to offer services to more seniors. When Bowers moved to the Mustang facility in February, it was about one-third full; now, it is “almost completely full,” she said.
“Right now we have 45 residents in assisted living and another 21 in memory care,” Bowers said. “We’ve made a lot of changes bottom to top from Kim (Bowles) to housekeeping and everybody in between.”
Caring for seniors is always a balancing act, posing a particular challenge to nursing staff, who always want to see their patients happy and interacting with others, Bowers said. Add to that the memory problems that come with those in assisted living, not to mention memory care, and it can become emotional, she said.
“While some of them are social butterflies, others really just want to stay in their rooms and have their privacy, and we respect their wishes – but that’s not always easy because we want our residents and patients to be happy and active,” Bowers said. “For some of them, though, that kind of isolation is what they want or need, as difficult as it might be for us as caregivers to see or understand.”
To be part of a nursing – or really any other – assisted living or memory care staff means having just lots and lots of patience, even more than some other nursing situations, Bowers said.
“For most of our residents, it really boils down to memory – and they need to be monitored 24 hours a day,” she said. “But, it’s really more than that because there are times they just don’t understand what we’re trying to do in their care or even where they are or what they’re doing.
“That can be very difficult,” she said. “But, then you see how rewarding it is, that you are helping to give these people a new home, a change that you can make things easier and better for them – and that’s just an amazing feeling.”