‘It’s a Calling:’ Nurses Share Their Experiences

By Zach Petroff

Eagle News Intern

ZELIENOPLE — Stacie Grenet was not sure what she wanted to do when she graduated high school in 2006, she just knew that she wanted to help others.

“When I graduated high school, I knew I had to do something,” Grenet said. “I wanted to take care of people, but I didn’t know what that was really.”

Grenet ended up finding her calling. She became a nurse.

National Skilled Nursing Care Week, which ended May 20, was created by the American Health Care Association in 1967. The week is a celebration of skilled nurses who provide high-quality and round-the-clock coverage care to millions of America’s seniors and individuals with disabilities.

“There’s a stigma out there that nursing home nurses just pass out medication and don’t have all these assessment skills,” said Lutheran Senior Life Passavant Community director of nursing, Rhonda Hoover. “It’s a specialty, like psychiatry and cardiology. You have to know all the system, all the bodies.”

Nursing in Pennsylvania has experienced a rise in turnover rate recently. In January the Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania reported that the turnover rate for registered nurses increased nearly 5% from 2019 to 2022, while the turnover rate for certified nursing assistants increased 1.5% during that same time.

Tonya Kennedy, a household coordinator, has dedicated much of her life caring for the elderly. Kennedy has been with the Lutheran Senior Life Passavant community for nearly four decades. She started as a CNA and still maintains her certifications by working “at least a day a weekend” as an aide.

“I love it here,” Kennedy said. “I love working with the elderly, the residents just get to you. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”

Providing care

Michelle Bobbert is also a household coordinator that has worked at Lutheran Senior community for 35 years. She spent most of her career as a nursing aide and has developed a passion for caring for those with memory support disease.

“I like to give a voice to the people that have their lost their voice,” Bobbert said. “Memory support disease is terrible. It erodes your brain, and it doesn’t get the respect it deserves.”

Giving a voice to the people she takes care of is something Bobbert says she aims do both figuratively and literally. She can recall at least four separate occasions where she and her fellow nurses were able to help residents relearn how to feed themselves and in some instances, even helped patients regain parts of their speech.

“Nothing make their kids more happy then when they can have that moment with their loved ones,” Bobbert said.

The life of a geriatric nurse can provide a level of unique challenges not found in other fields of nursing.

“It pulls your critical thinking skills like you wouldn’t believe,” Grenet said. “You’re the first person to lay eyes on somebody’s grandmother, somebody’s mother or partner and you have to kind of put all the pieces together.”

Unlike at a hospital, these nurses do not have doctors on their floor that they can turn to, nor secretaries to make doctors appointments. They are often required to manage all of their care, such as talking to dietitians, the doctors, nurse practitioners and other various providers.

“You really have to be critically thinking, you have to get your team to work together,” Grenet said. “You have to get all of them to work together to best suit the needs of the people you’re taking care of.”

‘Like your second family’

With the amount of time the staff at Lutheran Senior Passavant spends with their residents, it is nearly inevitable that an intimate bond is formed, Hoover said.

“It’s like your second family. The families (of the residents) know about you and your family,” she said “The residents, they’ll look, ask about you, or just the simple smiles and little waves mean so much. It’s just a second family.”

Bobbert echoed the sentiment.

“I don’t know, it’s hard at times, it’s thankless at times,” Bobbert said. “I don’t think I’d be happy anywhere else. I mean some part of me needs it, so I feel like they need me and I need them. So it works.”