Linda Allen, BSN, RN, remembers some of the stranger situations her team has encountered: an opossum blocking a door, a yard so flooded that it took a boat to reach the patient’s house and a cow relaxing indoors are just a few examples.
That kind of unexpected situation explains why nurses who specialize in home care need to be flexible, courageous and independent – in addition to skilled and caring.
“Our challenge really is what the environment is going to be like when you get to the patient’s home,” she shares.
Linda adds that “some homes can be super clean; others have holes in the walls. Some have a volatile situation or unfriendly animals in the house.”
Linda recalls one patient who returned to the emergency department several times with respiratory problems. When the patient eventually allowed a home care nurse to visit, the nurse discovered mold growing underneath the patient’s trailer. Once the nurse helped arrange for the mold problem to be corrected, the patient no longer had respiratory issues.
“You’re not just taking care of the patient, you’re taking care of the environment in which they’re living,” Linda says. “We’re not there to judge, we’re there to care.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the way home care was delivered had to be adjusted. Every nurse now wears a face shield or goggles throughout every visit, and they regularly arrange for virtual visits. Additionally, nurses go through a COVID-19 questionnaire with each patient to screen for potential illness.
Since the pandemic began, Linda’s team has cared for more than 140 people with COVID-19. During a visit, the nurses check symptoms, coordinate with a physician when any clinical changes are needed and encourage patients along the path to recovery. Usually, patients recovering from COVID-19 have recently been discharged from the hospital.
“COVID-19 has so many symptoms. Most of our patients don’t have fevers. They have fatigue, gastrointestinal symptoms or breathing problems,” explains Linda.
Food may taste strange or be unappealing as well, so the nurses also help patients overcome their reluctance to eat.
Of course, many home care patients have medical issues unrelated to the pandemic, such as wounds that are healing or medical equipment that must be monitored during their recovery.
“We’re the bridge to get them from where they are to back where they were before their illness,” says Linda.
Linda is especially proud of her team for their dedication this past year.
Despite the pandemic, “they’re out there. They’re putting their heart, their soul, their time into this,” she shares. “They’re probably the best team of nurses I’ve worked with in my life and I’ve been doing this for 30 years.”
Ultimately, working as a home care nurse is a calling.
“You do it because you like what you do,” says Linda. “When it comes down to the nitty gritty of it, their patients are first. They give it their all, they really do!”
Read more stories that celebrate our amazing Mercy Health nurses during National Nurses Week.
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