After more than 50 years working as a Registered Nurse, 12 of them for Mount Evans, Karen sees her volunteer work at Mount Evans as part of her ministry to the Evergreen community. “My experience and knowledge as an RN is used to support our palliative care team. I make phone calls to patients and providers and obtain necessary documentation so our nurse practitioners and social workers can stay focused on our patients. Through phone calls with patients, I can help them understand their illness and support them regarding their life choices. It’s an honor to serve my community.”
Q: How long have you been with Mount Evans?
A: I was with Mount Evans for 12 years as a Registered Nurse and have now been working as a volunteer with our Palliative team for three years.
Q: Why did you want to work at Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice?
A: When 9/11 happened, I said retirement was not for me. I have more to give; I’m not done. I thought about other opportunities in the community, but I said no, Mount Evans is where I can use my skills and my knowledge. So I came in as a field nurse and moved into hospice care.
When I started with Mount Evans, I was the only nurse on 285 because the population wasn’t expanding as it has now. I said at that time, 285 is going to expand tremendously, and we’re going to need more coverage. I saw patients from Grant to Conifer and everything all around. It has been exciting to see the growth on 285.
Q: Where did you work before Mount Evans?
A: I’ve been a nurse for over 50 years, primarily in long-term care in administrative and patient care. So as 285 became busier and more staff was hired, I was pulled back to provide Mount Evans staff at Life Care Center of Evergreen and Elk Run Assisted Living.
Q: What brought you back into the volunteer position you’re in now?
Three years ago Palliative Care was starting to grow. I was contacted at that time because the patient load was increasing, and we only had one social worker and one nurse practitioner. It was felt that in order to supplement and complement their time, they needed a person who was committed to Mount Evans and who had experience with Mount Evans’ patients. Having been with Mount Evans for approximately 12 years as an RN, primarily with hospice, they felt that I was the person. I was contacted and asked if I would volunteer to help that current team – the social worker and the nurse practitioner –to relieve them of things that I could do, such as making phone calls to current patients, researching/obtaining medical records, and using my experience as a nurse.
Q: What do you find rewarding about your work?
A: Being able to assist the current staff, by making phone calls, gathering the information the staff needs, and sharing that information with the team. The work I do means that the nurse practitioners, social workers, and chaplain can spend time with the folks that need more attention.
Q: What does it mean to you to serve our mountain residents?
A: This is my home. We’ve lived here over 40 years. Our children were raised here, and so this is our home. I’m serving my community, and Mount Evans is a vital part of my community.
What’s fascinating for me is that no matter where I go in the community I run into families I’ve had contact with and I’ve taken care of. They’ll say “hi, Karen” and I haven’t seen them for a couple of years, while others I see on a regular basis. I think that’s what’s interesting as a community.
Q: Do you feel like you make a difference in the lives of patients?
A: Yes. When the patient’s physician makes a referral to palliative care, the patient is seen by a Mount Evans’ nurse practitioner and/or social worker. If a patient expresses interest, they can also receive care from our spiritual care coordinator. Then when appropriate the patient will be added to my “phone calling list” for regular phone contact to complement visits by staff.
When I make the first phone call they are often like hmm, “who are you,” but then after a few calls, we’re developing a relationship. During my phone calls, I explore what difficulties have occurred and discuss options and choices to be considered by the patient. I also discuss increasing the frequency of level of care by staff.
We do discharge palliative patients when they become stable or are empowered to manage their healthcare needs. They can always return to Mount Evans for services in the future if their health needs change.
Q: Describe a moment from your job that touched your heart?
A: There’s so many. So, so many. Everyone is special.
Q: Not all health care organizations are equal, what do you think that makes Mount Evans special?
A: It goes back to serving a community, even though we are geographically spread out, we are serving a community with people that have links to each other. People will say, “my neighbor had services from Mount Evans or my mother was cared for by Mount Evans” and other people will say, “we just moved here and don’t know anything about Mount Evans, but the fact that it’s a community.”