The year is 1961. John Kennedy is sworn in as President. Alan Shepherd is the first American in space. Wagon Train is the number one show on television. And 21 year old Fran Howell begins her career as a licensed practical nurse in long-term care.
Today, 54 years later Fran Howell is still working in long-term care. That amazing achievement was recognized at the Alabama Nursing Home Association’s Best Practices 2015. Howell, who works at Cypress Cove Center in Muscle Shoals, first became interested in nursing when her young daughter was hospitalized with pneumonia. She watched the nurses care for her daughter and the other patients, and decided that’s what she wanted to do.
After more than half a century in long-term care, Howell says she’s seen a lot of changes. “When I first started we had nothing disposable. You had to wash and clean everything. Even had glass medicine cups, glass syringes, that had to be cleaned in the autoclave. That was a hard job,” Howell said. “Technology has improved. Now we have a lot of new stuff that we didn’t have then. We used to check urine for blood sugar. Now we have a machine.”
Another change Howell has seen is the type of resident she cares for. “I take care of a lot of people who are much younger than I am. Some are in their 20s and 30s.”
But one constant in all those years is how Howell feels about her residents. “I love my residents and they love me. They look forward to seeing me if I’ve been off. They just appreciate everything I do for them.”
Cypress Cove’s Director of Nursing LaTunya Ashford says she takes advantage of Howell’s longevity and years of experience to help new staff members get acclimated. “With her being here so long I utilize her for new graduates and employees to get oriented and learn our best practices. She also helps them understand how to relate to the residents. She has a good rapport with the residents and their families.”
“She’s perfect with the residents”
About 73 miles away down Highway 157, if you stop by Hanceville Nursing and Rehabilitation, you’ll probably see LPN Charlene Guest caring for her residents just as she has for the last 48 years. In fact Guest has spent her entire 48 year career at Hanceville. She was honored at Best Practices 2015 as the second longest serving long-term care employee.
Guest says she took her first job there for what she calls the security of it. Still the idea of taking care of others appealed to her. Over the years she says the work has become part of her heart and the residents have become part of her family. “The gratitude you get from the residents. If you can ease their pain, make them more comfortable that means a lot.”
She too has seen a lot of changes in long-term care during her long career, particularly the move toward resident-centered care. “We treat the residents’ rooms as their home. We ask for permission to go in. The care is resident-centered.”
Guest has also seen a change in the resident population. “The population is living longer. We have more medications to monitor than we used to.”
Hanceville’s Director of Nursing Terri Ugarkovich wishes she had more than one Charlene Guest. “I’ve told her if I could clone her my life would be easy,” Ugarkovich said. “She’s seen it all. She’s perfect with the residents and families.”
Looking forward not back
With an amazing 102 years of combined services one would think Howell and Guest may be considering retirement. But neither has any interest in quitting just yet. “As long as I have my health I’ll continue on,” Guest said.
“I’m going to renew my license this year,” adds Howell. “If I quit I’m afraid I’ll just sit around. I don’t want to do that. I love to get up and go to work.”
And the people they work with, and the people they care for, are glad that Howell and Guest share that love of getting up and going to work.