CAREERS IN NURSING: STELLAR CARE BRINGS FAST GROWTH – AFFINITY CARE OF OK
story and photo by James Coburn, Staff Writer
The emergence of Affinity Care of Oklahoma shines in the community, said Crystal Grilley, RN, clinical director. Caring for patients with all the love in the world has been a blessing, she said.
Grilley became one of the original employees of Affinity Care of Oklahoma, located in Oklahoma City, when it opened its doors just over a year ago.
“I had great expectations for us because I knew we came into it by wanting to do the right thing for people,” Grilley explained. “In the year we’ve been open, we have 20 employees taking care of 100 patients.”
Grilley and Executive Director Mandi Price had worked together at different hospices when Grilley was recruited to Affinity Care of Oklahoma.
Grilley said she was impressed when Price told her she wanted to take care of patients the way they need to be taken care of, and not the way someone else is telling them how to do it. (story continues below)
“As a nurse you want to give someone what they need,” Grilley said. “It gets very frustrating as a nurse to have someone say, ‘You can’t do it. That’s not in our budget or that’s not what we do,’” she said. “Especially as a nurse, that’s all you ever want — to care for patients.”
Grilley had always wanted to become a nurse since childhood. She entered the healthcare industry by becoming a CNA during high school. She climbed the ladder of success as an LPN by becoming a registered nurse by earning her nursing degree at Oklahoma City Community College.
Her transition nearly 20 years ago as a labor and delivery nurse to hospice care was not such a far stretch as people might think, she said.
“You’re part of someone’s life whether it be life or death,” she said. “And so, it really is a beautiful thing either way.”
Making a difference for a patient or their families is life changing for everyone, she said. Taking care of people and being part of the end of their life is of the utmost importance, Grilley said. She has cared for patients from ages 20 to 102.
“They’ve lived this life, and unfortunately it comes to a point where they’re not going to be with us any longer. So, we help them die with dignity and hopefully pain free,” she continued.
It’s important for nurses to ask patients and their families what their goals are in hospice care, she said. One of her former patients wanted to enjoy the sunshine after being hospitalized for six months.
“That was the first thing we did when we got him home. We let him sit out for hours. It’s just really important for us to be able to help patients do what is important for them,” Grilley said.
Not every patient is ready to share their thoughts about the end of life. They may never have expected their physician to recommend hospice. So, they need hospice nurses with compassion, understanding, and patience, Grilley said.
“They majority of our job is providing education to families, to caregivers, to facilities — to everybody that’s involved in the patient’s care,” Grilley said.
Affinity Care of Oklahoma prides itself for having conversations about palliative care multiple times when patients and families have a lot of questions.
Meet patients where they are in life and allow them to express their feelings, she said. Listen to their questions and explain what hospice offers, she added.
“Some people think we come in and medicate them and they’re no longer alert enough to sit with their family. That is not the case at all,” Grilley said. “People that come onto hospice, especially early in their disease process usually feel so much better at that point and are able to do things they haven’t been able to do in a long time.”
Some patients will say they wish they had entered hospice care sooner. Patient care is individualized based on what they need. Every case is different.
“If that patient needs to be seen every day, we’re going to see them every day,” she said. “If that patient only wants to be seen once a week, we’re only going to see them once a week.”
Nurses shine with confidence. There is relief in knowing hospice provides symptom management, pain relief, chaplains, grief counseling, and providing social workers to navigate through end-of-life preparations.
Volunteers spend time with patients by helping them write letters or cards, playing games or whatever they need.
She recognizes that everyone has their own need to relax or energize. Grilley and her husband love to travel anywhere from day trips or a weekend trip.
She has two adult daughters. One will turn 23 in December and her other daughter is 19.
“Traveling is my big thing. They’re always joking around here that, ‘One of these days we know you’re just not going to come in.’ And you’re going to say, ‘Sorry, I’m getting on a plane to go somewhere,’” she said. “That’s not going to happen. But traveling is really the way that I decompress.”
Visit https://affinityhealthmanagement.com/oklahoma/ for more information about Affinity Care of Oklahoma.