It’s October 1967. Cool autumn breezes are blowing across rural north Alabama.

A young woman is ready to step into a health care career. It’s time for her job interview. Dressed in a neatly pressed nursing uniform, she nervously walks through the front door of her local nursing home.

The late Jim Moody, founder of Hanceville Nursing & Rehab Center, sees promise in this 18-year-old. He hires the licensed practical nurse to help his growing business.

Retired HNRC nurse and current resident Miriam Jones with Charlene Guest.

Retired HNRC nurse and current resident Miriam Jones with Charlene Guest.

Looking back, Charlene Guest didn’t know it would be her last job interview. For 50 years, she’s been a faithful employee of the center. Delivering medicine, serving meals, putting smiles on sad faces. There’s no way of knowing how many miles Charlene has walked up and down these halls. Countless steps on her journey to deliver compassionate care to residents and patients who became her friends.

“It was love at first sight,” Charlene recalls from her first days on the job. “Taking care of an older person won my heart because they were so grateful for what you did for them.”

Things were different when Charlene started her career. She’s adapted to a lot of changes. Paper medical charts have been replaced by computers. The heavily starched nursing dresses, aprons and caps gave way to relaxed, comfortable scrubs. The one-size fits all daily schedule for every resident is gone. A culture of person-centered care gives residents more say in their daily activities.

“Things are more precise now. You really have to be diligent with your charting terminology than what it was when I first got out of school,” Charlene says.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Charlene’s commitment to the people she serves.

“They (residents) all want comfort or a kind word or a loving touch. I think you really have to love older people,” Charlene says.

Friends, family, co-workers and the people Charlene cares for gave her a party to mark her 50th anniversary at Hanceville Nursing & Rehab Center. The party surprised Charlene. The gift that will send her on a special trip in November was unexpected as well.

“I don’t have plans for the future. If I’m unable to work, I’ll fold up my tent and go home,” the soon to be 69-year old says while laughing. “Seriously, I think I’ll work at least another year. I need to stay busy. I work 40 hours a week and come in early many days.”

Thank you, Charlene, for making a difference in countless lives. We hope your story is an inspiration to all Alabama nursing home employees.