“She is a respected leader in the industry that has influenced the way our society views nursing homes…It is impossible to summarize in a few words the extraordinary ways she has contributed to the long-term care industry.”
Affectionately known by her nickname at work, “Kay,” our July Spotlight Nurse has dedicated 18 of her 24 years as a nurse to LTC. She’s worked with prisoners, in assisted living and other facilities, but always keeps coming back to long term care – because she loves taking care of elderly folks. Beginning her career as a Certified Nursing Aide at the age of 22, Kay’s LTC experience has spanned many roles including floor nurse, MDS (minimum data set) nurse, Assistant Director of Nursing, Wound Nurse, and Admissions Nurse. She’s currently the Infection Preventionist and Unit Manager, at Genesis Healthcare-Albuquerque Heights, New Mexico.
Technology and an Evidence Based Approach Helps Better Care
Kay has humbly impacted nursing in the most extraordinary ways, running one of the most acutely complex units in New Mexico. She never shies away from a challenge. Her unit was one of the first to admit a patient with an LVAD (left ventricular assist device) into a nursing home setting. She worked so well with the hospital team to train her clinical staff, they sent a second LVAD patient just days after the first!
At one time, Kay and her staff cared for the LVAD patients, eight patients with tracheostomies, six patients on dialysis, and 12 OPAT (Outpatient Parenteral Antimicrobial Therapy). This type of acuity is unheard of in the long-term care setting, yet it doesn’t phase Kay. What does she loves most about the job?
“In my unit, we have a diverse population, but it’s being able to take care of patients when they’re sick and helping them to be able to go home after they come here from the hospital to do therapy.”
What Kay doesn’t mention is that while her unit cares for high acuity patients, she has been instrumental in reducing the return to acute care rate to 9.92 percent (the nationwide industry standard is around 20 percent). At the same time, she empowers her nurses to make critical decisions with interventions that can be initiated within the facility.
When asked what she’s had to give up as an LTC nurse, Kay admits, “Time. I’m on call 24/7. Some days it’s tough and other days not. Some days you’re busy, and other days priorities shift and I’m called at 1, 2, and 3:00 am. I cope with it by thinking about the patient. I love my job so much that I don’t mind – and I like to know what’s going on in my unit.”
Kay is influential in facilitating patient and family-centered care, too. A patient was admitted in a comatose state, being nourished through a feeding tube, and was placed on hospice because her family and hospital staff believed the patient had given up. Not Kay – she pushed her staff to converse with the resident and get her up and out of bed throughout the day. After months of hard work, the resident’s diet was upgraded, and she was able to eat on her own. When discharged from the facility, the resident was able to talk, feed herself, and sit in her wheelchair for extended periods of time – all due to Kay’s relentless efforts!
Changes on the Horizon?
Kay believes perceptions about long-term care are being altered, saying, “Some people think that in a skilled setting, all we do is give out medication, and everyone is going to stay here forever, but it’s really a mix. Times have changed and we do so much more than that.”
When asked about the best part of her job, she eagerly points to her co-workers and residents.
“Working with my colleagues and a diverse population has helped me learn everyone has a different personality – and it has expanded my abilities to learn and communicate, making me a better nurse.”
Cheerleader for the Nursing Profession
Kay feels honored to be recognized as Nurse of the Month. It surprised her because “nurses hardly get thank-yous,” and this makes her feel appreciated. She hopes all nurses will feel more appreciated as a result of the impact of the Year of the Nurse. When asked what she would tell someone if they were thinking about a career in nursing? Kay says “go for it!” She advises her 19-year-old daughter to be a nurse because, “it feels good taking care of patients, and treating people with compassion.” With all her success and impact on patient care, she humbly boils it down to just that: people and compassion.
This July, we salute and congratulate nurse Kay Delgado!