Tracey Brian, RN and director of nursing at Grace Living Center Edmond, says the company helps the staff with education needs.

by James Coburn, Staff Writer

Tracey Brian loves going to work because she’s going to be with her second family, she said.
Going strong in her 14th year with Grace Living Center Edmond, Brian, RN and director of nursing is content to stay. She became the DON in 2003.
“It’s a family-type atmosphere. A lot of people say that but I mean it,” Brian said. “A lot of the people have been here as long as I have. We spend more time with each other than we do our own families.”
Brian said she had not planned a career based on long-term care and skilled nursing. She began her career in labor and delivery, working in the emergency department and medical surgical in Lawton, where she is originally from.
She began looking for employment in Oklahoma City when her husband’s job caused them to move there. The nursing home industry was accommodating with flexible scheduling, Brian explained.
“When we moved up here at the time, we had no family, and I didn’t want my kids going to daycare,” Brian said.
She found Grace while working for an agency when she was in LPN to RN school.
“Whenever I came here, they said, ‘Why don’t you just work for us. You’re coming all the time. Just work for us. We’ll help you get through school. We’ll do whatever you need to accommodate your family, your schedule.’ Now I’ve been here for 14 years.”
Grace has kept all of its promises during those 14 years, Brian said. Brian earned a nursing degree at Oklahoma City Community College. She said it was a great school for a fulltime working mom.
Grace Living Center is more than a nursing home, she said. Nursing homes are often stereotyped as not a place to come to work, she said.
“Grace truly is a care facility. It’s a caring home for elders to come to when they’re in their golden years,” Brian said. “They’re accommodating to families all the way to the corporate office to certified nurse aides.”
Corporate office management visits Grace and knows the direct-care employees by name, she continued. The family atmosphere extends from the top down, beginning with owner Don Greiner.
“It’s wonderful,” she said.
The retention of the Grace staff proves her point. Brian said the nursing staff is absolutely committed to making a difference when they walk through the doors every day. They receive fulfillment from caring for the elders.
“They know they are making a difference in these people’s lives and they feel it,” Brian said. “They stay around for a long time because they feel the benefit and the rewards of the good work that they do.”
Her work at Grace is at the opposite end of her previous work in labor and delivery, she said. But there is a common thread of kindness involved.
“Caring for our elders when they basically have returned to being dependent on us for care is something I found rewarding,” Brian said.
When she worked nights in med/surg in a hospital setting, she would come in to a new patient load with patients she learned about on paper and would probably not be there the next day, she said.
Residents of Grace are there because Grace is their home. And the nursing staff gets to reflect on the benefits of compassion and skills they have provided to the elders. The personal rewards are tangible.
“I don’t think you see that as much when you’re working in a (hospital),” she said. “They do great work, but they don’t get to see it day-in and day-out like we do when we come here.”
Activities are ongoing at Grace allowing the residents to live their lives with enrichment, she said. They will go to a circus or some might enjoy fishing, Brian said. The elders venture to casinos and go to the park for a picnic.
Resident Council meetings are provided for the elders to state what they want to do on a given day. A peer mentor group will help with fundraisers devoted to activities. The mentor group of staff workers also does activities on their own such as bowling, Brian said.
Brian’s personal life is full of outdoor activities. She loves fishing and teaches Sunday school at the Light Your World Church in Okarche.
Long-term care is highly regulated, but its workers often do not get the praise they deserve by the community, she added.
“It’s a rewarding field. I think they are special, special people,” Brian said of the 5 Star facility. “They’re doing the work that a lot of people aren’t interested in doing or don’t want to do. So it’s a really gifted group.”