Jacqueline Vance, RN

I have read two things that really got me thinking how it’s imperative we have to know “who” our residents are. Not by disease or condition, but by their history.

This is especially true now that both Mother’s and Father’s days have recently passed. One was a McKnight’s blog by Editorial Director John O’Connor, who wrote about a gentleman who passed away in a long-term care facility who had been a specialist in the field of history and economics. The gentleman was a Nobel Prize winner, and authored over 20 books and numerous research papers.

All that the facility staff knew of him was that he was an old man with a bad heart.

The other was a story posted on Facebook by a friend of mine.  It went like this:

An 80-year-old man was sitting on the sofa in his house along with his 45-year-old son. Suddenly a crow perched on their window.


The father asked his son, “What is this?” The son replied, “It is a crow.” After a few minutes, the father asked his son a second time, “What is this?” The son said, “Father, I just told you: It’s a crow.”


After a little while, the old father again asked his son, for a third time, “What is this?” At this time an expression of irritation was heard in the son’s tone when he said to his father with a rebuff, “It’s a crow, a crow.” A little after, the father again asked his son a fourth time, “What is this?” This time the son shouted at his father, “Why do you keep asking me the same question again and again, although I have told you many times ‘IT IS A CROW!’ Are you unable to understand?”


A little later, the father went to his room and came back with an old tattered diary, which he had maintained since his son was born. On opening a page, he asked his son to read that page. When the son read it, the following words were written in the diary: “Today, my little son aged three was sitting with me on the sofa when a crow was sitting on the window. My Son asked me 23 times what it was, and I replied to him all 23 times that it was a crow. I hugged him lovingly each time he asked me the same question again and again for 23 times. I would have thought I would have felt irritated but I rather felt affection for my innocent child.”


While a child, the son asked his father 23 times, “What is this?” The father had felt no irritation in replying to the same question every time. Yet this day, when the father asked his son the same question just four times, the son got irritated, impatient and annoyed and yelled at his father.


How many times do we take the time get to know “who” is the person we are caring for?  Do we forget that they cared for someone once in their life? Do we forget that he or she might have made huge contributions to society? We can’t forget. Remembering makes a huge difference in how we approach and how we care for someone.

Our work environment allows us the time luxury of being able to look at the whole person, not a disease or condition, as most often happens in the acute care setting. It’s actually not that difficult to incorporate a “Who they were” into your admission process.  Simply add a section to your admission form.

You would be amazed how your staff’s attitude changes. And make it part of your orientation process and yearly in-services to help your staff remember that your residents had lives outside of this environment.  Most were moms, dads, aunts, uncles, husbands, wives, partners, etc. — someone who patiently cared for someone else.

If you take the extra five minutes to get to know “who” your resident is, you will be amazed how much it will enrich both of your lives.

Just keeping it real,

Nurse Jackie



The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, a 2012 APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real life long-term care nurse who is also the director of clinical affairs for the American Medical Directors Association. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. She has not starred in her own national television series — yet. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.