“She is extremely knowledgeable, great to work with and excelled at her job! Heidi is the definition of excellence in care, leadership and teamwork…”
A snippet of the glowing recommendation for Heidi Ehrlich, who kicks off our Year of the Nurse and Midwife celebration, as our first Nurse of the Month! We received nearly 300 nominations for exceptional nurses and it was hard to choose just twelve, but Heidi is one who truly would make Florence Nightingale proud. After 37 years (and counting) as an R.N., she still finds her job rewarding and her career fulfilling.
More Pluses Than Minuses in LTC Nursing
Heidi is the Resident Assessment Instrument (RAI) coordinator for Spruce Lodge, a 128-bed municipal, non-profit long-term care (LTC) facility in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. Although she’s held other positions, including in acute care, Heidi has spent most of her career in long-term care – which she highly recommends.
“I’ve always wondered why more young graduates don’t go into long-term care. They usually tend to migrate right to acute care. But in LTC, you have to utilize all of your nursing skills, from assessment to mental health to analysis of what’s going on and how to choose the best care for each individual. You feel like you can accomplish a lot.”
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are among the growing challenges facing LTC caregivers, but Heidi sees significant progress in the availability of valuable resources to help manage residents, such as behavior support from the Alzheimer’s Society. New technologies, equipment and supplies are enabling her and her colleagues to provide high-quality care to their residents – and make a difference in their lives.
“The most rewarding to me, and probably any nurse, is seeing the positive outcomes that occur when we use our skills to create a care plan, then educate staff on how to best manage each resident’s behaviors and health issues. Helping our residents through challenging circumstances makes it all worthwhile.”
Many Improvements – But More Are Needed
Heidi appreciates how far technology has come since she began her nursing career and is always advocating for additional tools to make the work of all nurses easier.
“The electronic health record has enabled us to integrate so much into a single place, where we can access all of the information about a resident much easier than we did in the past. Having a system that’s user-friendly and flexible, so we can create the assessments we need, is also a plus.”
Heidi admits that despite the many advances, LTC nurses still face day-to-day challenges.
“The government needs to look into providing more funding for personal support worker staffing. We’re in a crisis situation when it comes to recruiting direct care staff. I hope something will be done to assist LTC in both finding and retaining good team members.”
Long-Term Care is NOT the End of the Road
When asked about misconceptions regarding LTC nursing, Heidi is very vocal about one impression which she believes is way off target.
“I’d like to change the perception that residents come into long-term care to wait to die. In fact, we focus on their quality of life, and maintaining that quality throughout their stay here. Even if this is their ‘last’ home, it’s important to incorporate quality into everything we do for them, from activities to nursing care to environmental services to programs. I’d like people to understand that we work very hard to maintain and promote quality of life for all.”
Good Advice from a Seasoned Nurse
Heidi was “stunned and humbled” to be selected as a PointClickCare Spotlight Nurse of the Month. She believes that the Year of the Nurse and Midwife will show others how the nursing profession has changed.
“This will help the world better understand the work ethic of a nurse, and how it’s an all-encompassing job. Today we have to be almost like detectives, using all of our skills to figure things out. It’s not just about giving out pills and the so-called traditional nursing duties. It’s much more in-depth, and I hope that will be embraced both within and outside the profession.”
If you’re thinking about becoming a nurse, Heidi has a few tips.
“Always maintain a positive attitude and look towards positive outcomes. A sense of humor is key. Nursing is difficult when you’re dealing with life and death, but your success is all in your approach, how you relate to people. I’ve learned so much, but most important is communication, as well as respect for the entire team and what they’re contributing to enhance each person’s quality of life.”
Where will Heidi be in 10 years? She says with a laugh, “I hope to be sitting on a beach with a margarita!” We can’t imagine anyone who deserves that kind of retirement more than she does. Congratulations, Heidi, on an inspiring career!