Barbara was in the third grade when she first knew she wanted to be a nurse. “When I read the stories of Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale, I was hooked,” she says. “There was something about the heroism, fierce kindness, advocacy for the less fortunate, heartwarming support, and selfless humanity in those stories that made me want to be a part of it all.”
Despite that early certainty, Barbara’s path didn’t lead her directly into nursing. Her first bachelor’s degree was in English literature, and by the time she began nursing school at a local community college in 2007, she was a mom to three children under the age of two. Her life is a whirlwind, she told us, but she is grateful for the choice she made to pursue her childhood dream. “Being a nurse and a parent has filled me with joy, pride, and a sense that I am a part of something much bigger,” Barbara says. “I could not have asked for a more fulfilling vocation and life; I am truly blessed.”
Today, Barbara is a mobile care partner working out of the CCA Springfield office. Like many mobile care partners, Barbara has shifted to doing her work over the phone due to the coronavirus outbreak. When she first started working remotely, Barbara immediately reached out to her members. “I am very lucky that I have had most of my panel for over five years. I know them so well and feel welcomed by most,” she says. “It is different to deliver care telephonically—an assessment done in person is very different from that done telephonically and creativity certainly plays a role.”
The transition has been “challenging but interesting,” Barbara says, and has required her to draw on a new set of skills. “I try to envision what each member’s environment is, what I am hearing them say, and how I often have to ask the same questions multiple times using different approaches so they understand what is being asked,” she says. “With imagination and patience, I am able to converse with our members.”
The population CCA serves is especially vulnerable to feelings of anxiety related to the coronavirus pandemic. Barbara does her best to relieve some of their concerns, channeling those earlier generations of nurses who guided their own communities through epidemics. “COVID has invoked fear in our fragile community, and to have an opportunity to educate safety and social distancing and to ease their fears and support their efforts has been rewarding,” she says. “I would like to think when I hang up the phone, our members feel safer, less fearful, and supported.”
Caregiving during a pandemic requires its own kind of fierceness. One of Barbara’s members, who is Deaf, was hospitalized when the coronavirus pandemic first began. The member had a sudden onset of confusion and was in an altered mental state. The hospital would not allow anyone other than patients and staff on the inpatient floors.
“Barbara advocated for the hospital to allow the member’s aide to enter, because he is one of the only people who can communicate with the member via sign language,” says Christina Camara, manager of clinical care partnership at CCA Springfield. When the hospital wanted to have the member placed in long-term care, Barbara made sure they understood the member was not in their normal state, and had been living successfully on their own for several years. Barbara successfully advocated for the member to have the chance to go back to living independently.
Despite the stress and uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, Barbara is grateful to be at home with her partner and three now-teenagers. “There have been on-going cribbage matches, Kahoot challenges, board games, hiking in nearby woods, meals together, lots of laughter, and reconnecting,” she says.
Now, more than ever, she is deeply appreciative of the work she does at CCA, and the chance—in a small way—to follow in the footsteps of the childhood heroines who inspired her to become a nurse. “I wake every day with gratitude that I am still employed at a job I love only second to my family,” she says.