CAREERS IN NURSING
FROM LIBERIA TO OKLAHOMA: LPN SAYS LIFE IS GOOD
by James Coburn – Writer/Photographer
Annie Stewart began thinking about a nursing career as an 18-year-old when she lived in Liberia, West Africa. Today the LPN is a charge nurse at Warr Acres Nursing Center. She told her grandma there that she wanted to become a nurse.
“I was working towards it before I came to America. And when I got here I was still interested in taking care of people,” she said.
She became a nursing assistant at another nursing home before earning her LPN credential at Metro Technology Center in 1993. Stewart has a work history with Warr Acres extending back to 2004. She was not always worked there during her career, but returned in June of 2015. She credits her friend, Gail DeWitt, for paying her way through school.
“She is like a sister to me,” Stewart said. “I don’t see her every day, but she’s got a place in my heart.”
Stewart said she had to leave her grandmother at home in Liberia where she passed away. So taking care of seniors is soothing for her because she will always miss her grandmother who died in 1997.
“I like doing that because I’m like their daughter. We’re a big family. I talk to them and help them through good times and bad times,” she said. “I take care of them like my own. The way I take care of them is the way I would like some people to take care of me when I get old tomorrow.”
Everyone will grow older, she said. So she always reminds CNAs working with her to treat them the same way they would want to be treated at their age. She also shares that it’s not only the elderly in nursing homes. There are people who have been in car accidents, experienced strokes and so many people in rehab.
“They cannot help themselves at home. So when they are here we treat them with dignity and take good care of them,” Stewart said. “Because what you do for people today, you will get paid for it tomorrow.”
What goes around comes around, she said. She tells the staff to please do the best they can. Work can be overwhelming at times, but there is always room in life to stay calm.
“Don’t every treat anybody in a mood because you are angry or overloaded,” she said. “This is a field that you have to have some love in your heart. If you are not somebody who has love and compassion for people, then this field is not for you.”
There are certain people she works with who never complain and Stewart loves that. CNAs never refuse her requests, she said. But Stewart does not hesitate to report to the director of nurses or the administrator if there is an employee who does not belong at Warr Acres.
She loves her residents, she said, especially when she comes through the door and is told, “Annie, I am so glad to see you.”
One of the gentlemen always tells her he knows his day will be good when he sees her. She treats them as her own. And they hug.
Recently she assisted a woman to bed and told her that she loves her. The next day the woman’s roommate asked her to tell her that she loves her, too. The woman was in tears, and Stewart always makes a point now to tell her she loves her.
When not working you can usually find Stewart gardening, planting hot peppers, sweet potato and okra. Sometimes she will share what she cooks at Warr Acres with other workers. She also likes to work out.
She said she would like to go back to school to become a registered nurse. But she will also work in a nursing home.
“Old people are in my heart,” she said.
And she never forgets her life in Liberia. It is a small country and was nice to live there until a civil war erupted there. She was able to leave the country.
“My daddy was killed in 1990,” she said. “He went to church and there were more than 200 people there. They (terrorists) went there and killed every one of them.”
Her sister fled to the Ivory Coast. And her two brothers died in Africa.
“But Liberia is very sweet and when they see you they treat you like a king,” she said of present day life.
Stewart loves seafood and would like to live near the ocean. But her husband does not want to leave Oklahoma. He is also an LPN. Her husband has been working at Deaconess Hospital for 21 years.
Life is good here, she said.