Visiting nurses inspire patient's banner recognition

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Fri., Aug. 5, 2011
Rachael Blais had this banner made to publicly thank the visiting nurses who helped her recovery. Photo courtesy of Visiting Nurse & Health Services of Connecticut, Inc. - Contributed Photo

When Rachael Blais began experiencing back pain, it took a while before she was diagnosed with a problem that was actually in her shin. After receiving treatment for that and other issues, Blais was sent home, but still had trouble walking and performing daily tasks.
“When I came back from the hospital, I was a mess – I couldn't move,” she said. “I had them [the staff at the Visiting Nurse & Health Services] come in. They helped me out so much. Everything they do is so calm and gentle.”

Blais said nurse Jean-Marie Shirshac checked the routine – like blood pressure and heart rate – but more importantly, answered her questions. “She would help me out with anything,” Blais said. “When I had questions, she always answered them and gave me suggestions.”

Physical therapist Karen Tullson helped Blais become more and more ambulatory, and even suggested a way of pointing her toes while walking that helped correct Blais's leg pain.

Blais said that during her rehabilitation, occupational therapist Olivia Bartholomew gave her many tips on how to perform tasks, such as how to prepare dinner while using a walker to get around. “Everything they do seems like common sense, but you are not able to think of it [at the time],” Blais said.

As Blais became healthier, and no longer needed visiting care, she felt like she had to do something to thank her helpers. She had offered them several small gifts, which they are not allowed to accept. Moved to thank them publicly, Blais ordered a large banner through a website, which reads “Visiting Nurses are God's Angels,” and hung it on the front porch of her Hillcrest Drive home.

“It's staying up there until the first snow,” she said. “I couldn't think of anything more I could do.” Blais added that she has observed several neighbors noticing the sign. “I tell them I had visiting nurses because I was sick, and they're angels,” Blais said.

“We couldn't believe it when she did that,” said Pat Callahan, community coordinator for VNHSC.

Vice-President of Clinical Services Rosemary Harding said Blais had sent a letter, thanking VNHSC, and informing them of the banner. “I've worked here 20 years, and I've never seen anyone put a banner up in front of their house, thanking us,” Harding said. She added that despite the nice surprise, that level of care is indicative of the visiting nurses' expanding role in the healthcare field, especially with older patients.

“People are living longer, and staying home more,” Harding said. “They are using home care services more, to help them stay in their homes.” Harding added that part of the increase in home care is because nursing homes are more expensive, and also harder to get into, due to changes in Medicare and Title 19 qualifications. Also, hospital stays are getting shorter, and patients are coming home while still requiring some management, she said.

Visiting nurses are providing more services like rehabilitation, which Harding said are more beneficial when performed in their homes. “They tend to do better,” she said. “A lot of people have to go to a rehab facility, which are generally attached to nursing homes. There's a certain level of depression from the fear of having to stay there. But, once you get them home – in familiar surroundings, and around family – we see a lot of nice progress. Also, hospitals are where you can pick up a lot of additional infections that you are not going to get in your own environment.”

People are also living longer with chronic conditions, such as cardiac or breathing problems, and are able to be cared for through advances like tele-health programs, which allow nurses to remotely monitor and communicate with patients with medical telemetry over the Internet. “People who've had a serious heart attack or bypass surgery can come home, and we can monitor them,” Harding said. “There's a camera in the patient's home, and one in the nurse's office. There is a special stethoscope that the patient puts on their heart – we have a chart that shows them how to place it. The nurse can listen to heart and lung sounds. We can see if the patient is starting to go into heart failure again, and get their medications adjusted.”

Harding said the VHNSC has added about 15 nurses over the past year. “Home care in general is growing, as people realize that there are ways to stay home – more supports for them,” she said.

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