To celebrate the Alabama Nursing Home Association’s 65th anniversary, we’re highlighting unique individuals who’ve dedicated their life to long-term care and are committed to our organization. In this article, we shine a spotlight on Amy Roberts. A registered nurse, Amy is passionate about the role continuing education plays in improving long-term care.

By Missy Burchart

Resident Virginia Foster and Amy Roberts teamed up to compete in a Nacho Competition at Oak Park Nursing Home.

Resident Virginia Foster and Amy Roberts teamed up to compete in a Nacho Competition at Oak Park Nursing Home.

Amy Roberts had a very unique upbringing. Born in Jamaica, she was raised by a foster mother and grandmother, but her biological parents and siblings were very much part of her life. They were a different kind of blended family. At the center of it all was her grandmother. As the matriarch of the family, she instilled values in Roberts that still guide her today – directness, respect and sharing. She carries those values close to her heart and it is reflected in those she works with and the patients they care for at Oak Park Nursing Home in Auburn.

“I’m not a beat-around-the-bush kind of person,” says Roberts. “My grandmother was a no-nonsense, direct person who believed that people should speak the truth. Not with anger or malice; just respectfully tell the truth.”

That is how Roberts approaches her leadership role at Oak Park. She has a great working relationship with those who report to her as well as other colleagues. While some in management may advise you to leave your troubles at the door, Roberts believes that people are human and everything happening in your life has an impact. She listens closely to her staff when they come to her with a challenge and tries to help them both personally and professionally. Roberts believes we are here to lift one another up. She is genuinely invested in the people around her. That is why you find family photos of her team on the walls of her office.

Oak Park Director of Nursing Amy Roberts, RN, shares information from a recent Alabama Nursing Home Association committee meeting with her staff.

Oak Park Director of Nursing Amy Roberts, RN, shares information from a recent Alabama Nursing Home Association committee meeting with her staff.

Roberts also believes that every challenge presents a teachable moment. Her family taught her the value of education by reinforcing the power of knowledge. That makes Roberts a natural fit for the Alabama Nursing Home Association’s Education Committee. This is her third year serving on the committee and she loves making a contribution. She frequently shares helpful comments or thoughtful insights during the committee meetings.

The goal of the education committee is to plan and monitor professional development seminars for the ANHA membership. Roberts observed that more and more of the elderly population entering into long-term care are those with the greatest disabilities and the most complex health needs. In order to meet their needs continuing education is essential.

“We have to be well versed in the latest studies and findings when it comes to the care of our residents,” said Roberts. “My work with the education committee gives me access to that information and in turn I can share it with my colleagues. I truly appreciate the opportunity the ANHA affords me to help elevate those around me, making them better. Knowledge truly is a powerful thing.”

Education brought Roberts to Alabama in 1992 when she followed her sister to Tuskegee University to take a position on staff as a professor and student advisor. As stated earlier, the family placed great value on education. Roberts will tell you that her family made sacrifices to ensure that she and siblings attained higher education. Many have earned various degrees, including doctorates.

One of the daily department head meetings at Oak Park Nursing Home. From left to right: Assistant Director of Nursing Christy McDaniel, RN; Social Service Director Tracy Jenkins; Director of Nursing Amy Roberts, RN; MDS & Care Plan Coordinator LaGail Hodges, RN; and Business Office Manager Bonnie Carmack.

One of the daily department head meetings at Oak Park Nursing Home. From left to right: Assistant Director of Nursing Christy McDaniel, RN; Social Service Director Tracy Jenkins; Director of Nursing Amy Roberts, RN; MDS & Care Plan Coordinator LaGail Hodges, RN; and Business Office Manager Bonnie Carmack.

Roberts shared a story about her mom taking in young kids who had to travel from the country to the city where they lived in order to attend secondary school, which in Jamaica equates to high school. Her mother, a seamstress by trade, would house three to four children, along with her own children. The children would stay with the family Monday through Friday so they could attend classes without the long journey back and forth.

Roberts plans to complete a doctorate in the near future because, as she says, she doesn’t like unfinished business. As a young student, many urged her to become a lawyer because of her straightforward and direct nature. She entertained the thought briefly, but she knew that nursing was her true calling.

When Roberts was growing up in Jamaica there were no nursing homes. The elderly lived with their families during their twilight years. When her grandmother had a stroke, she lived at home with Roberts. Roberts served as her grandmother’s primary caregiver for much of the time, until her passing just a few months shy of turning 102. So when she came to the US she was “blown away”, as she put it, by the concept of nursing homes, and caring for the elderly quickly became her passion.

“I have always gravitated to older folks,” said Roberts. “They have lived long and have so much wisdom to pass along to us. They have a great spirit that I find very exciting. It is life!”

Roberts has been with Oak Park for seven years. Her coworkers will tell you she is passionate about her work. She’s active with the residents and always participates when they have a special day, sometimes dressing up for themed events right along with them. She confesses that she loves the feisty nature of some of the residents because it shows how alive they can be. She knows every resident by name and makes sure to take time to sit and listen to him or her. Anyone who knows Roberts will tell you that her positive attitude is infectious and is part of what makes her a great leader. Roberts takes pride in her leadership role and in addition to serving on the education committee, she also serves on ANHA’s Facility Standards Committee.

We asked Roberts if she had a parting thought for this story and here is what she said: “I’m inspired by the fearless leadership of the CEO at EAMC, and dedication to our business at Oak Park. I’ve loved every minute I’ve spent here and wouldn’t change it for anything.” Oh, and she wants you to know she is an ardent Auburn fan. War Eagle!

Editor’s Note: Missy Burchart, APR, is a freelance writer based in Birmingham.