Valir PACE team approach makes a difference
by James Coburn, Staff Writer
Being a Valir PACE nurse is not a job where nurses to count the hours left before heading home.
“You have to be invested,” said Nicole Jones, RN. “They’re bringing in these people that are totally sick, unhappy and depressed, and you’re directly able to effect change — and there’s no other feeling like that on earth.” (story continues below)
The nurses are there for the patients no matter the cost.
When people hear of Valir PACE in Oklahoma City, they often think it is too good to be true. PACE stands for Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly. Valir PACE utilizes a team-based care approach providing a personalized, comprehensive healthcare plan to those without access to quality healthcare.
“It targets the lower socio-economic people. The whole goal is to keep people out of nursing homes, and so we help them adjust with everything to make sure that they’re safe in their homes or where they’re living,” Jones said.
PACE is special because the staff is 100 percent dedicated to their patients, Jones said.
“We had a nurse that took a patient a Thanksgiving dinner. We did hand out a lot of Thanksgiving dinners this year and there were some people that didn’t get it in time. So, we had a nurse who personally went out and delivered the patient a tray.”
Jones loves working with all other team members. PACE provides a clinic and gym and offers speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, medicine and counseling under the guidance of doctors, nurses, social workers, and therapists. A daycare center offers meals for those in need. However, during the pandemic, the staff is more mobile in responding to patient calls. The protocol depends on what the patient needs.
“We’re doing a lot more driving than we ever have,” she explained.
Jones has extensive experience as a nurse that include hospital emergency departments, intensive care, and surgery. In 2007 she earned her RN degree at Rose State College in Midwest City. When she came to Valir PACE she knew she would never go anywhere else and has stayed with Valir PACE for almost four years.
“The one thing that really stood out to me when I came to PACE — and I thought I’d never go anywhere else — I love this job.”
The staff makes a difference.
“We had a gentleman who wasn’t doing very well, and we put him in a nursing home,” Jones said. “When he came to see us for an appointment, he looked 100 times worse. I went to the medical director at that time and I said, ‘We absolutely can’t send him back there.’”
The medical director listened Jones’s assessment and agreed with her to do something different in the care of the elderly patient.
“A lot of times there are issues between nurses and doctors in a hospital if you suggest something,” Jones said. “But that’s not how we do it at PACE. It’s whatever’s best for the patient.”
Jones recalled a patient a couple of years ago who was very intelligent. The elderly man was an electrical engineer who had a stroke and could only say two words.
Two years later she went to see him, and he asked her how she was doing.
“You can’t beat that feeling. It’s like the best type,” she said. “It’s wonderful because this man could only speak two words to us, and now he’s playing dominos with his friends and saying, ‘What are you doing?’”
It can be a magical for Jones, she said.
Another experience involved a younger patient in her 50s left blind from a stroke. He was could see out of one eye and walked with a limp. The man felt isolated and had made a suicide plan.
“He came to PACE and he said that PACE changed his life,” Jones said. “And now he socializes. He’s like a butterfly. It’s just done so much for him.”
Building confidence and trust helps with therapy.
There are also PACE programs in Tulsa and Tishomingo, she said.
Jones has seen a lot of healing outcomes in patient care. Oftentimes the indigent will use an ER for their medical care because they lack insurance for a doctor’s appointment. Many of them do not keep their follow-up appointments scheduled by an ER physician because of a lack of transportation.
“So, with PACE we transport them. If they need a ride somewhere, we will take them,” she said. “It’s the same with medicine — if they need medicine, we provide that. Everything is inclusive. If they’re our patient we own everything, every cost.”