Nicole Vernon has been a caregiver with Family Resource Home Care’s Seattle branch since March of 2019. During the fall of that same year, she started a 2-year nursing program at Seattle Central College, which is currently very near completion. Prior to working at Family Resource, Nicole had been looking for a career change after many years managing a business at Pike Place Market. Though she loved her time at Pike Place, it was time for a change. She applied for many different jobs but had some nursing prerequisites under her belt from a nursing assistant training program. Destiny led her to the healthcare realm when she got a job at Family Resource and was accepted to the Seattle Central nursing program around the same time.
“Caregiving has been really rewarding for me,” said Nicole, emphasizing her appreciation for the companionship aspect. As someone who loves to help, chat with, and get to know people, Nicole understands why many choose caregiving as their career path. She wanted, however, to take the next step into a career in nursing which, she’s noticed, has many similarities. What intrigued her about nursing is the element of problem-solving. “Once you learn the thousand things you need to know, every day you get better.” When a new problem arises, more experience is gained, further expanding your skillset. Ultimately, Nicole says there is, “something new to discover every day.”
As Nicole learns about chronic health conditions, she’s been able to use the knowledge obtained in nursing school to gain more insight into her clients’ health and more effectively provide them care. She’s also able to practice nursing ethics – like what to do when a client doesn’t want to perform a task on their care plan – nuanced concepts that are more easily understood when directly applied in real-world scenarios.
Conversely, providing in-home care has directly contributed to Nicole’s journey into nursing. Thanks to home care’s flexible scheduling and the ability to work shorter shifts, Nicole was able to receive income through the entirety of her nursing program. In addition, Nicole feels like caregiving has given her a leg up to some of her classmates. Specifically, those who are nervous about their bedside manner, since a natural byproduct of caregiving is learning how to be intimately comfortable entering and performing tasks in a client’s personal space, as well as communicating with clients and their families. Perhaps most importantly, caregiving has given Nicole insight into what happens when a client comes home from a hospital or facility.
After acquiring her nursing license, Nicole aspires to work in a hospital or critical care setting, where the goal is to elevate patient health to a stable baseline that they can manage at home. Since this varies from her role as a caregiver, the valuable insight into what happens after a patient is discharged may lead to even more efficient, effective, and empathetic care. She feels more equipped to understand the options available to patients leaving a hospital setting, what those patients may specifically need following an acute stay, and how to communicate these elements to the patients and their families.
Ultimately, there are many interconnected aspects of caregiving and nursing that directly inform one another, and Nicole steadfastly recommended that aspiring nurses work in home care. She added, “While not as fast-paced as a hospital job, home care gives me the chance to really understand how people live with chronic illness or injuries. It is important for me to see how individuals follow medical advice when in their own home — Do they really do PT exercises? Do they really wear the brace when getting out of bed? Check blood sugar every day? Follow a low-carb diet? And if no, why not? Seeing the way different clients live will help me adapt care plans to real life. I continue to develop critical thinking skills and techniques for client education. Working without direct supervision means I have to be my own advocate for safety. Many jobs in health care are rewarding, but I take a special satisfaction in helping clients continue to live in their own homes. I have been able to provide stability, stimulation, and support for families with aging relatives and I feel good about my work each day.”