by Bobby Anderson, RN, Staff Writer
Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.
Suanne Livington, RN, isn’t sure who said those words but they couldn’t be more true for J.D. McCarty’s RN day nurse manager.
“It’s the kids. I love the kids,” Livingston said. “I love this job. It’s fun and it doesn’t feel like work. I enjoy going to work. I don’t dread coming to work and a lot of jobs people say they don’t want to go. I can honestly say I’ve never felt that way here. I love it here.”
Livingston has been a nurse for 25 years now with stops along the way at Children’s Hospital ER and St. Francis ER.
She graduated in 1993 but took turns with each of her three children being a stay-at-home mom.
This is her fifth year at J.D. McCarty Center for Children with Developmental Disabilities. Livingston and her husband worked the facility’s Camp Claphans for five years.
Claphans is a residential summer camp for kids with special needs ages 8 to 18. The camp is located on the south end of the McCarty Center’s 80-acre campus in Norman. It features two cabins, a multi-purpose building and is built next to an 11-acre lake.
The camp features summer camp activities like archery, canoeing, fishing, horseback riding, camp fires, swimming, indoor and outdoor games, arts and crafts and much more a nurse onsite 24 hours a day.
J.D. McCarty is unparalleled in the services it provides to Oklahoma families.
Children referred to the hospital are evaluated and treated by a team of pediatricians, pediatric specialists, registered nurses and LPNs, direct care specialists, physical, occupational, speech and language therapists, a dietitian, a clinical psychologist and psychology clinicians and social workers who focus on getting a child to their highest level of functionality and independence.
“This is a great place and I don’t think anyone in the state provides what we do,” Livingston said.
The facility has two different types of admissions. The first is a one-week respite stay that allows families time to revitalize.
The second is a 30-day evaluation filled with therapies.
Livingston was humbled from the moment she began at the Norman facility. She admitted to being naive about the level of constant care some patients required and how that care was delivered by parents and families without interruption.
“It is 24-hours a day, seven days a week. I respect not only the staff I work with but the children and their families,” Livingston said. “We provide a lot to them and it’s great to watch them grow from where they start … and what they accomplish.”
Unlike every other nursing role, this is Livingston’s first where she can actually stay with her patients and be there for both successes and setbacks.
“It’s great to see how much they’ve grown and how much they’ve accomplished over these five years,” she said. “We’ll have repeat patients come back once a month and quite a few patients in state custody. It’s been really cool seeing them grow from eight to 13 or whatever.”
Working with children – and those with developmental disabilities – is often a role many nurses will shy away from. There’s an inherent fear that some attach to the idea itself.
“I just think the kids teach me more than I could ever teach them. It takes compassion to go into any type of nursing, to understand everyone has a purpose in life,” she said. “That was difficult, at first, to see how I could help a patient who couldn’t verbalize or whatever … but they have a purpose in life.
“Certain nurses are drawn to this field, and I don’t think it’s for everyone but it is for me.”
Night RN Manager Mike Isaac has worked closely with Livingston for five years. He knows the heart and soul required for the job.
“If you have good basic skills like assessment and if you have a good heart you come here and become engrossed in a mesh of all these different therapies that are available,” Isaac said. “I don’t think I could do it if we didn’t have these therapies – it’s like an army of people taking care of these kids from the time they get up to the time they go to sleep. They get intense care and therapy.
“We’ve got people looking out for each other.”
The J.D. McCarty Center was founded in 1946, by a veterans group called the 40 et 8 of Oklahoma. The 40 et 8 was an honor society within the American Legion.When the McCarty Center first opened its doors to patients it only treated one diagnosis – cerebral palsy. Today, there are more than 100 different diagnoses in the developmental disability category.