One of Anita’s first patients at Commonwealth Care Alliance never told her nurse she was blind.
Like most CCA patients, the woman dealt with a variety of complex issues. She spoke only Spanish, had no family, and suffered from numerous medical and behavioral health concerns. Because she was unable to manage her medications and control her health problems, she was frequently hospitalized.
Anita, a registered nurse who lives in Springfield, visited the woman in her home a couple of times a week, earning her trust and trying to figure out how to deliver the right care. Eventually, she asked the woman to show her how she measured her blood sugar levels.
“It was clear right away that couldn’t see,” says Anita. “She couldn’t read the screen, she couldn’t administer the test right—she couldn’t actually measure her blood sugar or administer the insulin.”
As Anita learned, the woman was legally blind in one eye and had impaired vision in the other. Anita referred her to the Mass Association for the Blind, and they provided magnifying glasses and other tools. Anita helped the woman get a glucometer with a Spanish display and instructions, and insulin pens that were easier for her to use.
“For the first time in her life, this woman was receiving the care she needed,” Anita says. “This wouldn’t have happened through the standard ten- or fifteen-minute office visit. I had to really get to know her and understand her socio-economic needs.”
After more than sixteen years in nursing, including nearly eight at CCA, Anita has seen a number of changes in healthcare and worked in hospitals, community health centers, and patients’ homes. At CCA, she treats members in Springfield, Holyoke, and Chicopee. She prefers the long-term impact of in-home patient care, particularly for underserved populations.
“You get to see the patient through from beginning to end,” she says. “Plus, when you are treating someone at home, you can help identify barriers to care and spend more time on healthcare education and prevention than on just acute treatment.”
She has also learned a number of lessons about nursing.
“Good nurses look at their patients as a whole,” she says. “Especially when you’re dealing with vulnerable populations, it’s critical to understand that healthcare may not be their primary concern. Learn about their environment and their circle of family and friends. Listen to what they tell you.”
As for any advice she would give people considering a career in nursing, Anita says, “The education process is difficult. But the outcomes once you’ve completed school are much more rewarding.”