by James Coburn
As a nurse Linda Paget likes to pay tribute to certified nursing aides.
She began her career as a CNA in Kansas and later became a licensed practical nurse. Today, she’s a charge nurse at Willow Creek Health Care, located in Guthrie.
In 1994 Paget graduated from LPN school at North Central Kansas Technical School and has worked at Willow Creek for nearly two years. She worked in acute care for a small Kansas hospital but has for the most part worked in long-term care geriatric settings and skilled nursing.
Her career longevity is due to the rewards she gets while serving the elderly population of adults. She becomes close to them as she listens to their life stories going back through different decades of the American experience. Paget said her career is not something everyone can do or should do. LPNs need to be dedicated, she said.
“You have to just love the work,” said Paget, who enrolled in nursing school just after completing high school. Soon there was an accident during this time that injured her mother, so she put her education on hold until 1993. But Paget did not stay idle until that time. She was both a CNA and a CMA in Kansas while preparing to become an LPN.
“I went back. It was just something I always wanted to do,” she said. “It’s something that when I got out of high school that I wanted to do and I just waited.”
Her advice for nursing students interested in geriatric care is they need to be a CNA first to make sure a nursing profession is what they want. Being a CNA is required before the state of Kansas will allow an individual become an LPN or registered nurse, Paget said.
“Like I said not everybody is cut out for this kind of work,” Paget exclaimed. “Like I’ve said before it’s not an easy job.”
During her career she has witnessed too many people burn out because they enter the career for the money, she said.
“It’s not about the money. It’s not. You’ve got to be a loving and caring person because there are so many dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. It takes a very kind and caring person to take care of these people, Paget explained.
“They’re hard. There are sundowners who at 2 O’clock completely flip,” Paget said. They will pace. So she provides a safe environment for them.
“They’re on the go and you’ve got to be able to deal with them. You’ve got to find out what’s triggering them and makes them go,” she said. “You’ve got to be able to sit down and you’ve got to be able to take time with them.”
She never tries to change a person living with dementia. She can’t. Rather she meets them where they are in life and helps to direct them.
“We were taught so many years ago that you try to reorient them and bring them back. You can’t. You go with them. You deal with what they’ve got.”
Ninety percent of the time a person who is restless is living with some type of pain when dementia is involved, she said.
Teamwork at Willow Creek is bolstered by dedication as the nursing staff loves their profession, she continued. Dedication comes from a desire to help, she added.
“They love the residents. It’s an overall good facility. I just like the way people work together,” she said.
Paget’s work ethic is galvanized from her years of being a CNA. Her empathetic style of management is apparent. She never asks her staff to do something that she would not do herself. It is a golden rule in her life.
“Dignity rights is something that is really big for me,” Paget said. “Make sure those people look nice. You wouldn’t want your loved one to have a dirty face, be unshaven and unclean.”
Another golden rule for Paget is to have respect for her staff. Because she served as a CNA, she knows what a CNA does and how difficult it can be, Paget said.
“These people who come in here and do the job as a CNA — it’s hard on them — and I understand exactly what it is that they’re doing,” Paget said. “When they come in, they are my eyes and ears because they’re with these people 24/7. I can’t be on that floor and see what’s going on with them (patients) all the time.”
The CNAs can come tell her what is happening regarding patients from the subtle changes in their health to more serious changes.
“We’re more the people that do the book work and notifying people,” Paget said. “These are the people, the CNAs that really are your caregivers.”
She cares for herself by doing things she enjoys at home.
“I love to cook and bake,” Paget said.
She and her husband live nearby Lake Guthrie. She took seven months off to remodel the house.
“I came back and I love working out here. Administrator Laura Dutton is fantastic to work for. She is a warm and lovable person.”