Nurse hands off ER for routine
Sometimes dependability, consistency, routine are better than adrenaline-pumping excitement.
Traci Waner grew up in Marion; her first nursing job was at St. Luke Living Center when she was 17. She never expected to go back into geriatric care 24 years later.
She wanted to be a nurse since the third grade; she envisioned her career following the path of her first jobs.
After doing day care with her children for 11 years, Waner went back to school, receiving her first degree in 2005 and became a registered nurse in 2008. Waner started out working in emergency rooms in Marion and Wichita. A particularly harrowing experience was working on the transplant floor at St. Francis-Via Christi, treating some of the most dire patients in the hospital.
“I ate that stuff up, blood, guts,” Waner said. “I’d be lying if I didn’t say I missed some of the ER stuff.”
Waner intended to keep working in ERs, even though she admitted the work environment began to wear on her. She started working at Marion Assisted Living in December as a temporary nurse, a fill-in. When she was offered a full-time job at the facility, she took a day of soul-searching before saying yes.
“You can get some adrenaline going pumping someone’s chest,” she said. “I would rather take a hug from one of these grandparents any day.”
The routine elements of the job have revealed her favorite part of the position: interacting with the residents.
It’s common when she is working on paperwork in her office that a resident will drop in to chit-chat or with a small list of suggestions.
There are moments of levity, too. One memorable moment was a brief paper airplane battle with Ira Penner in the commons area.
She has enjoyed getting to know people; she marveled at one man in his 80s who steps out of Assisted Living every summer to work on his farm.
“When you two come into the place, it brightens up,” resident Louise Janzen said of Waner and Brenda Sowers.
“God’s plan led me here,” Waner said. “You can serve God more by serving His people.”
Sowers also recently started at Assisted Living, cooking since August and now working as the center’s dietary manager.
Like Waner, she is receptive to resident suggestions. In an informal poll, she learned that fried butterflied shrimp have a high-approval rating — being the most requested menu item. White chicken chili has a rating lower than George W. Bush in 2008.
Sowers works with bigger obstacles than resident taste. For every meal, she plans about five variations to meet the health needs of residents. For diabetics, it’s knocking down sugar; cardiac patients, it’s lowering salt; and for those suffering from acid reflux it’s about lower acid content in foods.
Sometimes this leads to unique fixes. One resident cannot eat pasta; on lasagna day, she receives the meat and cheese filling in a bowl. Another cannot have sauces. On pizza day, she has the pie sans sauce.
Assisted Living director Bonnie Sawyer said Sowers has shown an initiative for creativity. This includes modifying a few of the residents’ family recipes.