Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 4:26 PM on Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Homer-grown nurses help keep community healthy

By McKibben Jackinsky


McKibben Jackinsky

While I'm counting my blessings this holiday season, there is one brought to mind by my 95-year-old dad's recent stay at South Peninsula Hospital.

In the past 12 years, Dad has been in hospitals in and out of state, in cities with populations numbering in the millions and the hundreds of thousands, in communities no larger than a few thousand. His life has been held together by the capable hands of countless health care providers to whom my family is deeply indebted.

The following students have completed their training to earn the state of Alaska nursing assistant certification:

Deva Farmer

Debora Kerns

Adrien Knowles-Phelps

Tim Mumma

Martha Roderick

Robert Rutan

Charity Scott

Winter Shirts

Arley Suter

Janyce Wise

The following students have completed the Homer-based University of Alaska Anchorage nursing program, earning associate of applied science degrees and, as a result, becoming registered nurses:

Julie Arness

Tom Bursch

Jill Garnett

Josh Greibe

Robin George

Yvette Kiehl

Ashley McCaughey

Sarah Ott

In the three years Dad has lived in Homer, his care has been administered by individuals with exceptional knowledge, compassion and humor, and with a familiarity that is the blessing of a small community. This most recent hospital experience was no different, from the ER nurse to the caregivers that came and went throughout Dad's hospitalization.

Among those caring for Dad was a nurse I hadn't seen during his past stays. She looked familiar, however, but it wasn't until I finally saw her name that I made the connection.

I'd met her and her partner years ago while I was covering an event at a local dog-musher's kennel. The two of them had plans to one day have a kennel of their own. A couple of years ago I saw her again while I was attending a meeting at Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College-University of Alaska Anchorage. The meeting was about the nursing program available right here in Homer. I was there to write an article about the program. She was there because she was enrolled in the program. Last spring, when my husband, Sandy, and I attended a performance of the Homer High School swing band, I saw her again. She and her partner were among the couples on the dance floor, their graceful, smooth, well-practiced moves catching my eye.

Then, last week, there she was, one of many nurses coming in and out of Dad's room. She went from task to task with great ease. She described each action to Dad before she made it. Her patient and easily understood answers to my many questions eased my mind.

Her transition through the years, from dog-musher wannabe — a dream she said she is now thankful not to have pursued — to nurse, brought to mind one of the home health nurses making regular visits to check on Dad when he isn't in the hospital. Although I've seen her around town in several capacities, I also was at the pinning ceremony marking her and her classmates' successful completion of KBC's nursing program.

One afternoon during Dad's hospital stay, two uniformed women came into the room to observe his blood pressure and temperature being taken. When he asked who they were, they said they were studying to become certified nursing assistants. Returning to work, I read the press release from KBC about Wednesday's recognition reception for the 10 individuals just completing training to earn their state certification as nursing assistants. A former co-worker is among those listed.

Another press release from the college listed eight students completing the Homer-based UAA nursing program. They will be recognized at a pinning ceremony at 6 p.m. Monday at KBC.

Following in their footsteps is another group of nursing students who will begin the program in January.

How blessed we are to have among us individuals like these who commit to an educational process to become health care professionals, and then use what they learn to keep the rest of us healthy. How fortunate we are to have so close to home the educational opportunities that commitment requires. And how thankful I am to be part of a community with a hospital, clinics and programs where these skilled individuals help us stay well so we can enjoy where we live.

To the nurse who once dreamed of having her own sled and dog team, I appreciate that you changed your mind and took up nursing. To her and the many capable, caring and compassionate health care providers Homer is fortunate to have, for those who teach the classes needed to train them, and to the employers of these individuals, thank you for all you do to keep Homer healthy.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.