PACE Nurses Meet people where they are

This article was originally posted on The Reporter. Read the full article here.

As a nurse, I can tell you the national nursing shortage is not just media hype.

Too many good colleagues are leaving the profession, creating vacancies throughout medical settings. But I still believe the same thing I thought when I entered this profession: Nursing remains a rewarding and fulfilling way to make a living.

Especially if you are someone who has the care gene.

Some background: I work as a PACE nurse, meaning I am part of a growing model of home and community-based care for some seniors who need the skills of a nursing home but are able to live safely in the community with support.

PACE is an acronym for Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly and is a viable option for an increasing number of seniors. I used to work in hospitals, but PACE nursing is where I found my calling.

Being an effective nurse in a PACE environment means meeting people where they are. You adjust your strategies to meet the goals of the participant.

Nursing in PACE is gratifying. You can see the differences and benefits in someone’s life. You remember why it is you went into nursing in the first place.

If it weren’t for PACE, I may never have met the mayor of Sharon Hill.

The mayor isn’t an actual elected official, and when I met him, he was in bad health and had a poor diet. He was more than 200 pounds overweight. I felt he was literally eating himself to death.

In the case of the mayor, he was unable to walk at all because of his excess weight. When I met him, I could sense the desperation. He didn’t want to die, but he didn’t quite understand how to turn around his own health.

In essence, he was giving up on himself. But we believed in him and never quit trying to help him improve his outlook.

Change takes time, and we weren’t going to help the mayor with one visit. But PACE allows for continuous care because it follows a different insurance reimbursement model, one that rewards positive outcomes and is free for our eligible participants.

Because PACE programs receive a capped reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid, we are financially incented to keep our clients out of the hospital.

Over time, he lost enough weight to qualify for a gastric bypass procedure. Today, the mayor can walk on his own, no cane or walker. Even better, he has a new mental outlook on life.

The mayor believes in himself, and that makes us believe in him, too. He strides through the PACE center with the self-confidence of a public officeholder. This is why we nickname him the mayor.

When someone enters a PACE program, they receive access to chronic care management. We work with a patient over time, helping them take the baby steps that eventually lead to giant strides.

I am one of the lucky ones. I get to experience the good side of nursing every day. And, if you have the care gene, you can see the upside of nursing, too.

I spent more than a decade as an emergency room nurse, so I have experienced nursing through two different professional lenses.

I’ve been there to work on cases that are stressful, where split-second decision making is needed to save a life.

My current role also has stressful moments but the stresses are different and infinitely rewarding.

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic reminded us of the daily bravery and heroism of ER nurses. The stories you read and saw were all 100% true.

Still, nurses are heroes every day, not only in the throes of a pandemic. And not just in hospital settings.

The COVID-19 pandemic, while not officially over, is certainly not as intense as it was in March 2020.

We need to recognize the altruistic efforts of nurses, regardless of setting.

Indeed, nursing heroes can be found in physician offices, long-term care facilities, in rehab facilities and, yes, at PACE centers.

Nursing is not only a career, it is a calling. It is one of those professions that truly allow you to go the extra mile for people.

If you want a career where you feel needed, nursing may be for you. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 194,500 average annual openings for registered nurses each year until 2030.

Please look into being one of us. We need hard workers with generous hearts. We need people with the care gene in their DNA.