Saints In Scrubs: STNAs Deliver Care

Sharon Jones (far left), Judy Henderson (center) and Melissa Craft (right) are three of the 26 STNAs who care for residents at Vancrest St. Marys.From left: Molly Wycuff, Tiffany Apgar and Leza Puschel pause for a picture at Vancrest St. Marys. The nursing home is celebrating STNA week by taking care of those who care for others.
Staff Writer

A State Tested Nursing Assistant is defined in the dictionary as a skilled, trained caregiver who works in an assisting role, helping registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and physicians in the delivery of patient care.

To those who receive their care day in and day out, they are defined as so much more.

“A lot of residents consider us to be family,” said Vancrest St. Marys STNA Sharon Jones said.

Each and every day, more than 1.5 million STNAs across the United States don their scrubs and care for the sick, injured and elderly. For the 26 STNAs at Vancrest, it’s not so much work as it is a chance to make a difference in the residents’ lives.

“They have their favorites for sure but their faces always light up when we walk in the room,” said Judy Henderson. 

A typical day for the staff at Vancrest — if there is such a thing as typical, the STNAs joked — starts right away as each shift arrives. There’s plenty to do in the halls of 1140 S. Knoxville Ave. from helping residents get ready in the morning — showered, dressed, makeup and hair — to managing housekeeping chores such as washing linens, making beds and taking out the trash. 

“It can get pretty hectic sometimes with everything that needs done,” Melissa Craft said. “You always have to make sure to leave some extra time because a lot of times they are so happy to see you that they’ll call you in as you’re walking by just to talk to you. It slows us down a little but that’s OK because we like talking to the residents as much as they like talking to us.”

Liking to talk to the residents is part of what keeps the staff coming to work every day. Having a passion for caring is a given for the employees and they enjoy getting to come in and see their “family.” In addition to the residents feeling like family, all of the six STNAs present for the interview said their co-workers are also part of the family.

“If someone is getting swamped with a lot of work, we’ll go help them get it done,” said Molly Wycuff. “If someone is behind in one wing of the building and they ask for help, sometimes its someone from the complete other side of the building who comes to help.”

“We have each other’s backs no matter what,” added Leza Puschel.

Though they have the same goal and mission, to help the residents be as happy and healthy as they can be, the backgrounds of the staff — totaling more than 139 years of experience — cover a wide variety of stories. From wanting to serve after seeing a family member go through the challenges of aging to paying it forward and helping people the way they want to be helped down the line, each STNA had their reasons for why they do what they do.

“I do it because I want someone to take care of me someday or take care of my mom,” Jones said. “I want someone like these ladies to take care of her when the time comes.”

“I brought both of my parents here,” said Henderson. “My dad was here quite a while back in the 90s and my mom was here for one night, she passed away the next day.”

“I brought my father-in-law over here when he was on hospice,” Craft said. “I brought him here because I truly trust and believe in everyone who works here. I knew he’d be in good hands until he passed away.”

“I just enjoy taking care of the residents,” Wycuff said. “This is what God called me to do; to take care of those who can’t take care of themselves.”

“My cousin had a job here and I liked seeing the way she interacted with the residents and how she could make them laugh,” said Tiffany Apgar. “I like teasing with them and they’ll tease me back.”

Those seemingly simple interactions are part of what makes the job of STNAs an important part of the health care system. Seeing the same faces every day creates stability and routine for the residents which can help put them at ease when tough things are happening in their lives.

“We’re lucky to have these ladies working for us,” said Leisa Hettesheimer, admissions coordinator. “These ladies are what keeps us moving forward.”

While Vancrest moves forward, so too does time for the residents. And the progression of time makes for the hardest part of the job.

“It breaks your heart when you lose one,” said Henderson. “It especially hurts when you’re attached to one in particular but that’s another time where we’re there for each other.”

The STNAs at Vancrest, however are more than just “there.” They are doing their best every day to make the lives of their residents better.

“You have to have good care,” Jones. “If you don’t have good care, you don’t have a facility.”