It is no secret that there is a nursing shortage in the U.S. For long term care (LTC) facilities the situation is even worse; not enough nurses and a national turnover rate of 50 percent. LTC nurses feel that this is due to misperceptions about their roles.
“The public, and even nursing candidates, believe LTC nurses are glorified housekeepers. Nothing could be further from the truth,” says Sheila Darbouze RN, BSN, CDONA-LTC, Director of Nursing at Gouverneur Healthcare Services, a nursing home operated by the New York City's public hospital system.
“LTC nurses have the opportunity to be leaders and work creatively with an interdisciplinary team of professionals,” says Tammy J. Carlisle, MA, LNHA, Associate Executive Director of Gouverneur’s Nursing Facility. “And, we can develop long-term relationships with patients and families.”
There are over 750 nurses and more than 1100 ancillary staff working in New York City's four public LTC facilities. In addition to Gouverneur on Manhattan's Lower East Side, HHC operates Coler-Goldwater on Roosevelt Island, McKinney Nursing Facility in Brooklyn and Sea View Specialty Hospital on Staten Island. Many of the nurses in these facilities are leading innovators who have contributed to patient safety achievements, such as reducing pressure ulcers, falls and managing pain for long-term care patients. HHC also offers them extensive ongoing training and they find plenty of opportunities for advancement.
“The future of our field is very exciting,” Carlisle says. “Everyone is talking about the culture change movement. Studies have shown that residents have better health when they have more control over their daily lives, including deciding what and when they eat, and what time they wake up and go to bed. I'm proud that HHC is moving in this direction and we can help shape these changes.”
At Gouverneur, as in other HHC nursing homes, residents benefit from close association with HHC acute and ambulatory care centers. They can receive specialty services - many times on-site - like internal medicine, ophthalmology, gynecology, podiatry, imaging and dentistry. There is restaurant-like dining, with menus in Chinese, English and Spanish. There are regularly scheduled religious services and cultural heritage celebrations, laundry service, telephones at each bedside, a full-time barber and a beautician. Overall the care environment in which LTC nurses work is a pleasant one.
“I was an acute care nurse for most of my career. I had little autonomy," sums up Darbouze. “I wish I made the switch sooner.”