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Honoring Nurses at Aging and Disability Services

National Nurses Week images features three nurses and the text: Nurses make the difference.

Aging and Disability Services (ADS) celebrates National Nurses Week, which is May 6–12 this year. The 2024 theme set by the American Nurses Association is “Nurses Make the Difference.” It is fitting to honor our incredible ADS nurses, who embody the spirit of compassion, professionalism, and team spirit required more than ever in these changing and challenging times.

Nurses in the healthcare industry function in various capacities and serve in diverse roles, and this applies also to our Registered Nurse (RN) consultants. They respond to referrals from case managers, review a comprehensive electronic assessment of each client’s needs, complete medication reviews, determine training and educational needs, and when necessary, do home visits to assess clients who are at risk for pressure injuries.

With our long-term care client population and those aging with multiple chronic conditions, we are seeing more medically complex clients, including clients that have home dialysis, suctioning, tube feedings, intravenous (IV) fluids, IV antibiotics, wound and skin care. Our clients require holistic services and support. We are fortunate to have nursing staff in both our Seattle and Renton offices, and we contract with a community agency for nursing services, too.

One of our nurses, in addition to working as nurse consultant, serves on our CAPABLE (Community Aging in Place—Advancing Better Living for Elders) team. CAPABLE is an evidence-based program developed by the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. ADS partners with Habitat for Humanity and the program involves a RN, an Occupational Therapist (OT), and a handy person who works with clients. Clients set their own goals to more safely age in place.

Stories are so important in communicating the importance of our ADS nurses, so here are a few examples of how our ADS nurses make a difference:

  • A client agreed to participate in the CAPABLE program. Their personal goal was to increase home safety. The team addressed mobility on the stairs, safe mobility, and safe use of the shower and toilet. With the support from the RN, OT, and Habitat for Humanity, this client’s environment was modified for safety. Handrails and grab bars were installed, and other minor home modifications were completed that allowed the client to safely age in place.
  • A client had a broken wheelchair and was not able to elevate his legs, which was needed to reduce leg swelling. The client and his provider did not speak English, and they were not able to find anyone in their community who could serve as an interpreter. Our Russian-speaking nurse was successful in calling the company on the client’s behalf and, through her advocacy, the broken chair was repaired.
  • A referral was made to an RN to help coordinate home health, physical therapy (PT), and OT. Wheelchair use, seating, and home safety evaluations were requested, as well as wound care. After consultation with the primary care provider (PCP), it was noted that home health, PT, and OT were ordered following an earlier hospital discharge; however, the referrals were closed for reasons unknown. The RN advocated for a new home health referral and provided additional contact information for home health when scheduling home visits, should the client not answer the phone. When our RN discussed the client’s need for wound care with the PCP, she learned that the client previously said her caregiver would handle wound care, so a treatment plan for wound care was not ordered. In this particular client’s case, the caregiver did not have authorization to do wound care as the area was infected and wound healing was not stable and predictable, which the RN related to the health care provider. After discussion about the best treatment plan, the PCP made the decision that the client would go to the clinic for wound care, and a new referral would be made for home health.

Without our nursing expertise, advocacy, and support, our client population would not have the necessary support needed to safely age in place. They embrace the 4Ms of Age Friendly Care—Medications, Mentation, Mobility, and What Matters.

The iconic author and poet Maya Angelou was the daughter of a nurse. Ms. Angelou is known for this quote:

“As a nurse we have the opportunity to heal the mind, soul, heart, and body of our patients. They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

May we recognize the visible and invisible contributions of our nursing staff—and nurses everywhere—throughout Nurses Week and throughout the year.

Mary Pat O'LearyContributor Mary Pat O’Leary RN, BSN is a senior planner at Aging and Disability Services, the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle & King County and a division of the Seattle Human Services Department. For more information about CAPABLE, read Mary Pat’s article, “New CAPABLE Program Promotes Aging in Place” in the August 2022 issue of AgeWise King County.

Image at top courtesy of American Nurses Association, Nurses Week 2024.

Posted in Health Care