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Home health work provides perspective

Staff writer

Loreen Hett has worked as a nurse for Marion Home Health since the 1990s. She has seen a lot, and that has taught her to treat people with compassion no matter the circumstances.

Sometimes Hett ends up working with patients whose homes are falling apart or infested with bugs or mice. Other times she visits houses she describes as “immaculate.” Hett knows her services are required in either situation.

“We have so many people who rely on us, so many who depend on us,” she said. “Sometimes we’re the only people who they see.”

Many clients are extremely attached to their homes after living there so many years, Hett said.

“Every day is a different journey,” she said. “You learn to be flexible and go with the flow. You encounter so many different personalities and lifestyles.”

The job can be refreshing because she ends up working in the homes of people she knows from church, school, or around the community.

“You get the spectrum from one end to the other,” she said. “Living in a small town, you do know a lot of people, so you kind of get a nice mix.”

Hett has worked part-time in home care since the 1990s. That has allowed her the luxury of spending time with her sons as they grew up.

“I just fell into a nice routine where I had a little mix of work and a mix of home,” she said. “I think that might be called being spoiled.”

Hett works closely with St. Luke Hospital’s physical therapy department, and says it is home health aides who often are “on the front lines.”

“They’re doing the bathing, the personal care,” she said. “Very often they are the ones building rapport with our clients. They’re our eyes and ears.”

Collaboration and communication are very important. Sick employees would leave them short-staffed, but they have been lucky, Hett said.

“We take pride in saying that,” she said. “We take care of ourselves. It’s trying to eat right, get enough sleep, taking your vitamins. We know we cannot afford to get sick.”

Hett often educates patients about their conditions, from congestive heart failure to COPD.

“If I hadn’t been a nurse I would have gone to a teaching career,” she said. “It’s just a really nice career. I know there are those people who like to be stuck in a rut and do the same thing day after day. That’s just not me.”

Hett graduated from nursing school in 1986 and worked as a nurse at Ascension Via Christi-St. Joseph in Wichita. She moved to Marion to be back in her hometown, but soon realized working in the same nursing role every day wasn’t for her.

“I didn’t go to nursing school to call people back into a room, check their temperatures, and answer a phone,” she said. “I wanted to do more than that. I felt like that was a bit stifling.”

One change for Hett over the years is how much paperwork she now handles, with an increase in programs like Medicare and Medicaid, as well as stipulations for what nurses can and cannot do. Despite the changes, the job still is anything but predictable for Hett.

“It’s either feast or famine,” she said. “Either you just can barely keep up or you’re looking for something to do because census is down. It’s always going back-and-forth like a teeter-totter.”

Last modified Nov. 11, 2020

 

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