by Mike Lee
The comfort level of people being at home helps patients recover better says Erika Ward, RN, case manager, Innova Home Health in Oklahoma City.
“They’re not as stressed out as they are in hospitals,” she said. “Their families seem to be more comfortable because they can be there and more involved with what’s going on with their family member.”
Ward earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing two years ago at the University of Oklahoma where she was in the accelerated BSN program. Being a registered nurse is a great career because of the numerous opportunities nursing affords, she said.
“I happened to have chosen home health, but there is a litany of other things that you can become,” she said. “You can specialize in wound care. There’s a variety of certifications that you can pursue.”
She had been an industrial hygienist before making the transition in her career. She also holds a masters degree in public health.
“I always had an appreciation for nursing, especially after my son’s illness, Ward said. “It was a nurse practitioner that finally diagnosed him properly and got him the help that he needed. It made me appreciate nurses a lot.”
She discovered Innova from a friend who works there. She came on board and worked part time for a while. She found that she liked working in the friendly environment with people she likes. There’s not a lot of micro-management, Ward said.
“You do your job. Patient care is first and they allow us to take care of our patients without a whole lot of unnecessary things going on,” Ward explained. “So being here, I’ve enjoyed it a lot.”
The nursing staff at Innova is patient oriented and understand the importance of the continuity of care, she said. They are conscientious caregivers. Ward loves that Innova has in-house therapists and does not have to outsource. The therapists join the nursing staff in case conferences. So it’s good to have people representing all disciplines of home health to discuss patient care together, Ward said.
She chose home health because during her rotations, she found hospital work to be too rushed, Ward said. She will see an average of four to five patients a day.
“With home health, people are sick; they’re at their worst and are most vulnerable,” she continued. “With home health, they are at home and are more comfortable. With that environment, you have an opportunity to establish a relationship with patients.”
“They’ll come in and we’ll visit. They’ll ask me about my son and I’ll talk to them about their grand kids or whatever they have going on. You develop a friendship with them in the process of caring for them.”
People considering a career in home health need to be flexible, organized and a compassionate type of “people person,” she said. Some of her patients are very appreciative of having someone like Ward visit them during the holidays.
“Some of them are lonely, so it helps,” Ward said.
She gets to meet their dogs and cats. Some of the cats have also taken an affinity for her. They will jump in her lap. There is also a dog that always tries to investigate her bag, no matter where is.
Patients learn from her expertise in many fields. She teaches them about disease management and wound care, among other items.
Ward said that her former career as an industrial hygienist lends itself to nursing. She worked with the State Department of Labor in the OSHA department. She would venture to different businesses to make sure they were compliant with federal regulations that protect workers in the work place.
“So I did a lot of teaching not only with employees but with upper management to make sure things were being done the way they are supposed to,” Ward explained. “The skills that I honed there as far as interacting with people — as far as teaching — comes into play with what I do now because I do a lot of teaching.”
Being an effective nurse also means taking care of one’s own holistic health. Ward describes herself as a basketball mom when away from work.
“My son plays basketball. I enjoy going to the games, going to the practices,” she said. “I video games and edit them for my son. So that’s kind of my big release.”