Nursing Care That Puts People First
Two Vancouver Island nurses believe that by building relationships and focusing on person-centred care, they are making a difference in their community. Erika Loomis is a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and Dawn McQuinn is a Registered Nurse (RN). They both work for Communitas Supportive Care Society in Campbell River and Courtenay.
Communitas provides care in communities across BC for people who live with developmental disabilities. On the north island, this includes home living options in group homes and Home Share arrangements, as well as day services that give people opportunities to participate in their community.
Dawn and Erika work with people living in Communitas homes. They each bring unique skills and gifts to their roles. As a team, they support the people they serve, the managers and staff in the homes, as well as medical professionals in the community.
Erika’s work as the LPN is very hands-on. She visits each home regularly and spends time doing assessments that keep a steady baseline on each person’s overall health. Together with Dawn and the manager of the home, they consult and update ongoing care plans to ensure that nothing is being overlooked. Information is regularly updated and communicated to staff who work directly with each person. For Erika, these regular visits are vital because often people only come in contact with a medical professional when they are ill or in crisis.
“Connecting often with people and building relationships means you are creating trust,” Erika explains. “This means that the people I serve know who I am and connect me to their health in a positive way. It also means that if there ever is a crisis, they feel safe because they know my face, my voice, my touch.”
As RN, Dawn takes care of the big picture elements of care in the homes. She takes the information that Erika has gathered and updates care plans so that staff are best able to care for the people they serve. She also communicates with medical professionals in the community like pharmacists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and doctors. Her intimate knowledge of each person and their health needs means that she is often able to make decisions and suggestions for care. This can mean less trips to the doctor’s office, a benefit for the person served, the staff in the home, as well as for the doctors.
“Problem-solving is one important component to my work and it feels really good to be able to support managers and staff in this process,” Dawn says.
Erika agrees, adding that their longevity in the community means that they have strong relationships with stakeholders.
“Because Dawn and I have been working in the community for so long, the doctors know us and they are open to hearing us and our suggestions.”
Both women say that they have learned a great deal from the people they serve. Erika says that the relationships she has built have taught her about the importance of clear communication and advocacy.
I have learned so much about grace and the need to see, hear, and really listen. – Erika, LPN
She has also learned that supporting a person also means supporting the community around them like their family and the staff who care for them every day.
“They also need to be seen and heard and this only happens when you’ve taken the time to build a relationship with them,” she says.
Dawn says that the people she serves have taught her about humility and respect.
“I came to Communitas from an acute care setting where I felt that people were not treated with the respect they deserve,” she says. “Here it is so different. I find so much joy in this work, especially when I know I’ve made a connection.”
The respect that Dawn and Erika have for each other makes them a strong team. Their complementary skills and their passion for the work has been a hallmark of their working relationship.
“Erika and I have worked together for nearly seven years. I value and trust her and can be open and honest with her,” Dawn says. ‘I will ask her opinion on things because I respect her.”
Erika says that they are a tight-knit team and she loves the collaborative way that they approach their work.
“I adore Dawn,” Erika says. “She is so good at what she does, she’s the backbone of this team.”
Feeling supported by the organization makes a big difference too. Dawn says that the program directors are always available and their collaborative approach makes it a wonderful working environment. Erika agrees.
“Communitas is a lovely organization to work for,” she says. “I wanted to be in a place where I could build relationships, where we meet people in their space and on their schedule. It is so person-centred here and I love that.”