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VNA’s Debbie Kelly: 39 Years of Nursing & Educating
CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – The Clarion Forest Visiting Nurses Association (VNA) has provided quality service throughout Clarion, Forest, and Jefferson counties for over 40 years and Registered Nurse Debbie Kelly has worked there for 39 of those years.
“Deb is the only person at the VNA who has been here longer than me,” said VNA Executive Director Jill Over. “She actually oriented me to my first job here as a staff nurse, and my first assignment was to take over Deb’s ‘territory’ while she was on maternity leave. She’s the employee every employer wants and gives thanks for.”
“Over the years, she has taken on new positions within the agency and excelled at each. She began as an LPN making home visits. For a time she worked as our Home Care Coordinator at local healthcare facilities. She managed our Adult Daily Living Facility for several years and then became the manager of VNA Extended Care Services, our private duty agency.”
“As part of that job, she ran our flu vaccine program, which was the first of its kind in this area and quite large. A few years ago, we wanted to hire a wound care nurse, and when we posted the job, Deb expressed interest because she wanted more direct patient contact. She has devoted herself to attaining and maintaining wound care certification and attends a national symposium every year to keep her knowledge and skills current. Our employees are a huge part of what makes the VNA a special place. Deb exemplifies the qualities we look for in all staff members.”
Kelly has done all of those things, but she also views the education of her patients and families as a critical aspect of her work.
“We’re there to teach and to educate,” said Kelly. “People have free will, and they can either accept the teaching and be able to learn, or they may choose not to. You have to accept that you are there to teach them, but also realize that you can’t make anyone do what you think is best for them. Ultimately, it’s up to the patient.”
Certified as a wound care and ostomy specialist, Kelly supervises both programs for VNA.
“All of the care is provided in their homes,” continued Kelly. “Some of the care we provide is very nursing specific because we may have patients that need complicated wraps and layers of wrap applied to their lower legs.”
“Maybe that’s not appropriate to teach a family member to do, but there are some wounds where it is a little more simple and more frequent or daily dressing. Our policy is to see them for a shorter period of time, and after that, we find a caregiver or loved one or neighbor that we’re able to teach and go ahead (and) do that wound care for them.”
“We function as providing wound care, but a big part of what we also do is teaching. We teach people about their wound, how to care for it, how to deal with nutrition, and really promote wound healing even with restrictions. Let’s say they may have lower leg issues, and maybe then need to spend more time with their legs being elevated, wearing pressure wrap if that’s what the doctor ordered.”
Holding the record as the longest VNA employee, Kelly started as a licensed practical nurse and later completed her registered nurse degree along with other specialties and certifications.
“Ostomy is when a person either has their bowel or bladder moved due to a tumor or some other problem,” explained Kelly. ”They’ll have it brought out to their abdomen, and they then put pouches on it to collect the drainage whether it’s your bowel or bladder. I’ve had training helping those people find their correct pouch and educating them about their lifestyle, their diet, how to manage things, and how to manage problems.”
In overseeing the treatment of wound care patients at the VNA, Kelly reviews their cases and visits their homes to see it their treatment is appropriate.
“I see if there are any problems coming up and direct the nurses in different aspects of care, although we do go under the authorization of physicians, as well. We have some patients who are seen at the wound clinics and usually the clinic physicians will drive the care; we’ll go in and follow up with them.”
One of the reasons Debbie has stayed with VNA for 39 years is that everything is different, and she thrives on that.
“What I deal with is really diverse,” said Kelly. “Every day is different, and there’s a lot of traveling between homes or whatever, but I like the challenge of being out on my own. I love the diversity. I love going into people’s homes and evaluating the situation and thinking how I could best go to that home and teach that family on their level. Everyone is at a different level in terms of what he or she can take in and what he or she can learn. I find a patient’s needs and teach them about their disease and related wounds or ostomy. They get to point where they’re healing or independent with their type of care.”
“If you’re working here and if you’re assigned a new patient, you have to go up and ring that doorbell, and whatever you walk in to is what you manage. You can’t have any preconceived ideas about ‘they shouldn’t be doing this’ or ‘I have to have you doing this.’”
For more information, call 814-297-8400, or visit Clarion Forest VNA website here.
This is the first in a series of four articles highlighting various services of Clarion Forest VNA, a community-based not for profit agency.
November is National Home Care and Hospice Month.
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