America's Nurses: Geriatric Nursing is Where Kate R. Found Her Calling

NursingJanuary 29, 2014


Kate R. is a 57-year-old home health nurse in geriatric nursing who, in her words, "took awhile deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up." She has been a tech writer, a truck driver, a software trainer, a costume designer and has served in the Navy. Although her interest in the field of nursing began as a candy striper in high school, it wasn't until she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 and her mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a few years later, that she seriously considered entering the field of nursing.

"I quit my job to take care of my mom, and in the midst of chemotherapy and radiation appointments, I became very familiar with the hospital," she said. "I could direct people to where everything was and they would ask me, 'Why aren't you a nurse?' I got that from my mother's health care provider, from her respiratory therapist, from everyone."

During one of her mother's hospital stays, Kate went to the cafeteria for a cup of tea, and it hit her. "God, the universe, whatever you call it, just hit me, and I thought, maybe they had a point." Upon returning to her mother's room, she asked her mom what she thought about the idea. Her response? "What the hell took you so long to decide what you wanted to do when you grew up?" Kate was 50 years old at the time.

After her mother passed away, she obtained her certification as a nurse's assistant or CNA and became interested in hospice care. "When I was younger, death was a part of life. Somewhere along the way, society started thinking that we should keep people alive as long as possible. We forgot about the quality." Her passion for patient care and respect for individuals would guide her future in nursing.

After working as a CNA for several years, Kate began applying to nursing schools. "I looked at the community colleges in the area, but they all had wait lists. I put my name on the wait list but something brought me to the state university." They told Kate that, from her transcripts, she only needed three more classes until she could apply to the nursing program. Just a few years later, in 2011, Kate graduated with her bachelor of science degree in nursing.

Kate is currently working in geriatric nursing in home health. She makes ten to fifteen visits a week to patients in their homes. These visits can range from twenty minutes to an hour, depending on the specific needs of the patient. She enjoys the autonomy that comes from being a home health nurse, and she believes that a patient heals better and faster in their own environment, as they are more comfortable and have less exposure to infection.

"When I am with a patient, I am with a patient. There is no call bell; I don't have other patients I need to attend to at the same time. The time that I spend with them, I spend with them. That's the most important part about it. Giving the patient what they need, a little respect and a little time. And that's what they need, and that's why I'm a nurse. It's the best profession in the world." 

Photo Source: Flickr