By SARA ARTHURS
A 92-year-old former nurse had her wish granted this week — and it’s the first of many to come for local senior citizens.
Jane Elsea is a resident at Sunrise Senior Living, which is embarking on a program to fulfill residents’ “great expectations” — that is, the thing they most want to do.
Her particular adventure was a tour and luncheon at Blanchard Valley Hospital, where she had worked decades earlier, and a chance to learn how the profession of nursing has changed since then.
The idea came when Mary Ann Businger, life enrichment manager at Sunrise, was painting Elsea’s nails. She asked if she could do anything, what would she most love to do? It took a little coaxing, Businger said, but she ended up talking about how much she had enjoyed working at the hospital, which led Businger to ask if she would like to visit.
Elsea was a nurse from the 1960s to 1980s, much of it as the hospital’s nursing supervisor.
On Monday, Elsea received a VIP tour of the hospital and attended a luncheon, along with her family, with some hospital leaders.
Peggy Stevens, an administrative assistant who was named one of the hospital’s “extraordinary people,” showed Elsea and her family around several areas of the hospital, noting that the fourth, fifth and sixth floors are identical but the fourth floor, which they visited, is used for overflow, with more patients on the fifth and sixth floors.
As they discussed obstetrics patients, Elsea learned that mothers and babies are now given matching bracelets, so when the mother is next to her own baby the bracelets make a sound.
It’s one of many ways in which technology has changed the way nurses do their work.
Another staff member showed how nurses now wear computerized badges around their neck, making it possible to call one specific person, rather than talking over the intercom which may disrupt many more people.
Elsea also met two robots on her tour. “Max” is a robot in the pharmacy, used to fulfill prescriptions in the hospital. Elsea and Stevens talked about how it was different in the days when she was a nurse.
“Blanche” is a Xenex robot which emits xenon, which kills bacteria. It does not take the place of actually cleaning the hospital room, but after people clean the room, the light bulb pulsates and throws out ultraviolet light which sanitizes the area.
They also talked about the changes to the hospital in the past decades, including that what used to be the emergency room is now used for office space. The hospital has a total of 150 beds, of which nine are in Orchard Hall, the psychiatric unit. The average daily census is 90 to 100 patients.
Elsea said the best part of being a nurse was “taking care of people,” and noted that her mother was also a nurse. It runs in the family. Accompanying Elsea on the tour, along with her children, were her granddaughter, Krista Heggie, and her great-granddaughter, Katie Opsomer, both also nurses.
Monday was also the start of National Nurses Week, so Elsea got to learn about many of the other activities planned locally during that week, including a chance for nurses to showcase their talents, such as music. An awards banquet was scheduled for Wednesday night and Heggie was among the nominees.
Elsea retired in the early 1980s and spent much of her career as nursing supervisor, meaning she was responsible for the entire hospital.
“It’s entirely different,” she said of the current hospital.
Asked what she would say to get people interested in nursing, Elsea said she would explain that you must know that you are helping people and feel that you are doing something where you are taking care of others.
After the tour, as part of her “VIP experience,” Elsea had lunch with some of the hospital’s current leaders, including chief quality officer Dr. Bill Kose, as well as Barbara J. Pasztor, vice president, patient care services/chief nurse executive, and Kristina Jolliff, OR supervisor. The group discussed what nursing is like at the hospital nowadays.
Pasztor said nursing can also offer many different types of careers. Kose said the health system’s health care providers include many nurse practitioners, as well as certified nursing anesthetists.
At the end of the luncheon, the group presented Elsea with a gift basket including a scarf, Dietsch’s chocolate and hand cream, among other items. Elsea’s daughter said she loves polka dots, the pattern of the scarf. “Isn’t that something?” Elsea said. “Why, thank you, thank you, thank you.”
The event was kept a secret, and Elsea didn’t know about the visit until that morning. She called it “a very happy surprise.”
But Elsea isn’t the only resident to experience this. Businger said the “great expectations” program will be ongoing, and Sunrise staff hopes to give many residents special experiences like this.
“Jane’s awesome,” Businger said. But, she said, she’s one of many awesome people at Sunrise.
Tiffani Martin, activities and volunteer coordinator at Sunrise, was among those on the tour Monday. She said Sunrise staff had talked about what things Elsea liked to do, including farming and working as a nurse. They suggested getting her back on a tractor, but she indicated she would rather be a nurse, Martin said.
“She was very passionate about taking care of people,” Martin said.
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