Interview: Coordinating Care in Nursing Homes

nursing homesLearn about the benefits of life inside small, intimate assisted living and nursing homes.

Interviewee: Teresa Johnson
Nehalem Bay House
Nehalem, Oregon

One hundred miles west of Portland, Oregon, the Nehalem River gains momentum before emptying into Nehalem Bay, sheltered by a state park and bordered by scenic Oregon Coast Highway 101. On the outskirts of this tiny town, a small, 33-unit assisted living facility called Nehalem Bay House serves local seniors and their families by providing long term and respite care. Though you can find nursing homes sprinkled throughout the surrounding seaside towns, Nehalem Bay House is the only assisted living facility within 15 miles of Nehalem.

Working for Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities

When Teresa Johnson walked into Nehalem Bay House for her first day of work, she was newly married and fresh out of college. She often feels like she stumbled more than walked into the job. A history of hopping from one dream to another gave her a varied background that included dabbling in schooling for early childhood education and nursing before finding her home in Nehalem. The assisted living facility jumped at the opportunity to hire her because of her experience as a lead Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in nursing homes, as well as her recent Interdisciplinary BA in Health and Social Services.

As the Care Coordinator for Nehalem Bay House, she puts her nursing home experience to practice each day as she works with facility directors and an onsite nurse (RN) to create and manage care plans for the 33 residents. As the sole liaison between staff, residents and doctors, she is responsible for maintaining high-quality, personalized care for each resident. That means she spends meal times in the dining area socializing with residents, pays them visits in their fully-equipped apartments, brings treats to their pets, and leaves her door open for drop ins at all hours of her shift.

A More Subdued Pace of Life

She loves the time she spends getting to know the needs and preferences of each new resident. Creating monthly care plan updates gives her an opportunity to get to know family members, and scheduling doctor appointments helps her get a full picture of each resident's holistic health picture. Unlike more rigorous nursing homes, the needs of each patient at Nehalem Bay House are very limited. While some residents need help transferring into and out of their wheelchairs, they don't need constant supervision. And though others may need more oversight at meals due to choking hazards, none need full feeding assistance. The single staff nurse checks on patients' health status, but rigidly scheduled vitals checks (that are common at nursing homes) are unnecessary due to the general health of the residents.

Nursing Homes vs. Assisted Living: Facility Size

The last place she worked as lead CNA was at a nursing home three times the size of Nehalem Bay House. Having worked in nursing homes, she knows that residents will find a variety of lifestyle options depending on the level of care offered as well as the size. In her previous job, she felt rushed as she sprinted through nursing home hallways and wings to provide care to residents who pushed call buttons, needed their vitals checked, or had scheduled medication needs. She chocks it up to the more advanced needs of residents in nursing homes, but also to the atmosphere of a larger skilled nursing facility with more patients, more staff and a generally less homelike atmosphere.

"My last job felt like a revolving door. Now at the smaller facility, I still have A, B, C and D to get done, but I don't have to do it all in five minutes," she remarked with a sigh. With a smaller staff and a more familial atmosphere than her previous nursing homes, residents at Nehalem Bay House feel empowered to take their care into their own hands. "They feel the comfort of knowing they're supported 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but they take initiative to get to know the staff and other residents. Last week, a resident came by my office a bit distressed and claimed, 'Sweetie (her cat) misses you!' So I marched right on over to her flat with cat treats in hand!"

Finding a Home within Nursing Homes

Teresa can't imagine a job in early childhood education, teaching or nursing that would be as rewarding as coordinating care at an assisted living facility or nursing home. "I really love my job!" she summarized toward the end of our chat. The supportive, respectful culture, the lighthearted atmosphere, and the joy of knowing she's investing in meaningful relationships with richly experienced individuals gets her up each morning, excited for the day ahead. Who knows? Maybe the perpetually changing Teresa has finally found her niche.

Find Nursing Homes like Nehalem Bay House in Your Area

If smaller, more family-oriented nursing homes like Nehalem Bay House are just the thing for you or your loved one, you've come to the right place. Search through thousands of nursing homes in your area by using the elder care search box at the top of the page. You'll find facilities of all sizes in our comprehensive online directory. Or for a more personalized experience, simply call the toll-free number at the top of the page to speak with an elder care advisor about your specific needs and preferences. We'll match you with nearby nursing homes or assisted living facilities, free of charge.

Chances are there are caring facilities with staff members like Teresa just down the street from you. Get started on your road to wholesome living today at a nursing home near you.