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June 5, 2019

Nurses in personal care and assisted living homes care for the whole person

Lisa Torchia has been VP of Clinical and Support Services at Country Meadows Retirement Communities since 2017. Her 30-year nursing career includes senior leadership roles at four hospitals, most recently 11 years at Holy Spirit Hospital in Camp Hill. With RN and MSN degrees, she has clinical experience in critical, intensive and coronary care.

Why did you accept a position in nursing management at Country Meadows?

I was at the right place at the right time. I had just retired from Holy Spirit when Michael Leader (Country Meadows President and CEO) told me about this position at a meeting of the Hershey Rotary Club. The challenge of a new clinical experience in post acute care appealed to me. I’m so glad I said “yes.” I love working here in a resident-focused, care-centered environment.

What kinds of nurses care for residents at Country Meadows?

Both LPNs and RNs manage our residents’ health care needs, with most being LPNs. The training of our nurses prepares them well to care for the specialized needs of older adults. Sometimes, our co-workers decide they want to become LPNs or RNs, and Country Meadows generously supports their goals with partial tuition reimbursement, mentors and team encouragement.

When are nurses on duty at Country Meadows?

Our staffing plans include nurses on duty around the clock every day at Country Meadows, which isn’t the case at many assisted living and personal care homes. We feel there is a big difference between having a qualified nurse on-site versus just on call.

This is the time of year when many new nurses graduate. As they start their careers, why should some choose to work in assisted living?

First, let me say that we’re always looking for nurses who want to pursue careers in senior health care. In fact, we’re fortunate to work with student nurses from Reading Area Community College and Penn State University at some of our campuses. When they do clinical rotations at Country Meadows, they get hands-on experience in nursing in an assisted living setting.

Country Meadows believes providing experience to help develop new nurses is crucial at a time when more nurses are needed than ever before, a trend that will continue for the next two decades.

Senior care nursing is truly a special calling. It’s really for nurses who want to care for the whole person day by day. Our nurses use a holistic approach to manage residents’ physical and mental well-being as well as chronic conditions. With no physician permanently on-site, they handle the day-to-day clinical care, including decision-making and problem solving. At the same time, they coordinate this care with doctors and other health care providers outside our community.

Nurses at senior communities are part of residents’ daily lives. They help seniors enjoy healthy, comfortable living, remaining at their best for as long as they can. Senior care nursing is ideal for nurses who want the privilege of building meaningful relationships with seniors and their families.

How is that different from the duties of nurses who work in hospitals or skilled nursing facilities?

Country Meadows nurses need to be knowledgeable not only about the needs of an aging population, but also about the health care system in general. Our nurses coordinate the total health care services for all of our residents on an ongoing basis.

Country Meadows is home for our residents, and our nurses get to know them inside and out. They think of our seniors as family—they know their routines, activities, and abilities and strive to keep them as independent as possible to continue participation. While our nurses focus on keeping residents well, they also monitor and treat their illnesses and conditions as they age.

Nurses here must be fairly independent. Knowing the health challenges of each individual resident, they’re alert to changes in health to make sound judgments about their care. A main responsibility for our nurses is disease prevention—monitoring and safeguarding residents’ health to prevent illness .

Country Meadows also has nurses who work in restorative care and memory care. What additional duties do they have?

Our Pathways Restorative Services™ is for patients who have been discharged from the hospital but aren’t yet ready to go home. Our nurses help them master their daily activities and progress to their optimal level of health and recovery. Some who aren’t already Country Meadows residents have such a positive experience with us that they decide to live here permanently.

With our Connections Memory Support Services, we manage the care of residents with dementia. Because it affects the whole body as well as the mind, our nurses care for their physical and emotional needs. These seniors may be frightened, anxious or frustrated, and our nurses know how to support and respond to them.

All residents of these specialized neighborhoods receive personalized services from a team of professionals working together for their best interest. For example, nurses may recommend physical therapy for a resident who is losing strength or brain fitness activities for someone with dementia. Our nurses then monitor their progress as they participate in these therapeutic exercises.

How do you oversee the responsibilities of nurses working at all Country Meadows campuses?

My role is to provide clinical oversight for the company. I work closely with Directors and Assistant Directors of Nursing at each campus—we regularly meet regarding issues of care. We also have two Clinical Services Specialist RNs who routinely visit each campus with me.

We coordinate Competency Days several times a year at all our campuses, instructing the entire nursing and direct care staff on particular health topics. Actually, we just trained our directors and assistant directors of nursing from each campus on new developments in antibiotic resistance. They, in turn, train their nurses, medication associates and personal care assistants at their campuses.

What skills or qualities are most important for nurses who work with seniors?

It’s important for nurses to 1) understand and care for seniors with chronic medical conditions, 2) have empathy, patience and good communication skills with residents, particularly those with memory loss and 3) be excellent problem solvers and critical thinkers—knowing what they can do to help residents, whatever their needs may be.


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