It’s a job that requires both patience and empathy, says Ruby Bradley, a licensed practical nurse at Brookdale Foxwood Springs in Raymore.
The senior adult continuing care community honored Bradley, along with the additional 135 members of the facility’s nursing staff this week in celebration of the American Nurses Association’s National Nurses Week.
Nurses across the country are honored annually from May 6, also known as National Nurses Day, through May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.
“The nurses are here 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, holidays, all three shifts, and they brave the weather,” Foxwood’s Director of Nursing Jill Heinerikson said. “It is just so important to thank them for the job they do every day.”
More than 20 of Heinerikson’s nursing associates – who are responsible for meeting both the physical and mental needs of their residents – have been at Foxwood for at least 10 years – offering independent living and personalized assisted living for senior adults, along with skilled nursing care and secured living arrangements for Alzheimers and dementia patients.
Bradley, 50, of Belton, has spent nearly 18 years at the facility.
“I’ve always loved working with people and wanted to be a nurse,” Bradley said. “I was really close with my grandparents and it just seems natural to me. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Bradley worked as a certified nursing assistant for 16 years at another nursing care facility before she went to nursing school at Sanford Brown in Kansas City to become a LPN the same year her youngest of five children started kindergarten.
“I remember sitting at the table in the evening and my kids and I did all of our homework together,” said Bradley, who is also a wife and mother to five children.
After Bradley completed her studies and graduated from nursing school in April 1995, she started working at Foxwood Springs in October, where she had the opportunity to do clinicals as a student.
“When we came here, you just felt at home right away,” Bradley said.
Most of her career at the facility has been spent in the Clare Bridge Garden memory care unit, caring for patients experiencing aging disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
“You have to have patience, and you have to have empathy,” Bradley said. “‘How would you feel if this was yourself, or your parents or grandparents?’ That’s how I take care of every one of those people. It’s just not an eight-hour job that you punch a time clock and go home. You’re affecting someone’s life everyday.”
In some ways, she said, you become a part of the residents’ family.
“With dementia, you have to meet them where they are at because they’re not capable of meeting you here,” Bradley said. “Even though five minutes from now they won’t remember, there are so many moments throughout the day that they are very appreciative and know that you’re here to take care of them.”
Bradley is responsible for helping the residents meet their basic physical needs and providing comfort to those suffering from memory loss.
“You constantly really have to know your residents and look for signals because they’re not able to tell you why they are upset,” Bradley said. “You have to assess their basic needs, and if those are it, then we start looking at pain and things like that.”
Heinerikson said caring for individuals suffering from memory loss issues can be challenging.
“It really takes a special person to deal with the emotional impact of Alzheimer's for not only their resident, but also their family,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking at times but (Bradley) does a beautiful job.”
The facility cares for both short-term rehabilitation and long-term residents, and Heinerikson said she was recently reminded how committed her nursing staff is to their work.
During a major snowstorm earlier this year, the director of nursing said about 30 nurses stayed at the facility overnight to ensure adequate staffing of their shifts.
Heinerikson said her nursing staff is responsible for head-to-toe care of their residents – including meeting the needs of their physical and mental well-being – as well as providing an outlet of support to the families of their residents.
Heinerikson also said nurses commonly provide friendship to their residents.
“Some of these folks come in and maybe don’t have any family left. Basically the nursing staff becomes their family, and they work so hard and they deserve some recognition and the little things we do here make them happy,” she said. “I am very blessed to have dedicated staff. They really make my job easy.”