Nursing is more than a profession for Charlotte Eliopoulos. It is her ministry.
Long-term care “resonates with me because I do think taking care of sick, old, disabled people is important work and sacred work,” says Eliopoulos, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Nursing.
An evangelical Christian, Eliopoulos said she founded the organization less than two years ago because she did not think the long-term care nursing profession was being served adequately. Her association, which will hold its first conference next month in Orlando, provides education and advocates for all nurses in long-term care. More than 8,000 members have joined.
An underlying goal of her group is to help “knock down the silos” between the various nursing specialties and “create this culture where people really are working together as a team.”
Her work has made an impression on other long-term care leaders, some of whom have been familiar with her textbooks for more than 20 years.
“She’s a nurse who knows of the clinical, administrative and policy [sides] of nursing so she has a combination of experiences and abilities that are hard to find in long-term care,” says Sarah Greene Burger, coordinator of The Coalition of Geriatric Nursing Organizations, of which Eliopoulos’ organization is a member.
Besides speaking on behalf of nurses, Eliopoulos also promotes culture change. She serves as executive director for The Wellspring Program. She strongly supports this culture change model because it focuses on enhancing resident care and improving the quality of work life, particularly for workers on the frontline.
Holistic medicine also is a passion. She began exploring it when her husband was dying of liver cancer in the late 1990s. During the ordeal, she felt let down by conventional medicine, which she believed ignored her and her husband’s spiritual and emotional needs.
“Living through that caused me to reorient my thinking and to teach nurses not just how to take care of illnesses and diseases but how to care for the whole person,” Eliopoulos says. She went on to receive a doctorate degree in natural health in 1998.
Some of her admirers say she has pushed long-term care nursing to new heights. During the 1970s, she broke new ground as a clinical specialist of gerontological nursing—a new position—at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
While she stumbled into gerontology from pediatrics, working with older people was not a stretch, she says. Growing up in southeast Baltimore “there were always old people in my life.” She playfully compares her Greek family to the boisterous one in the 2002 movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”
Now remarried, Eliopoulos and her husband, George Considine, have six children and 13 grandchildren between them. When she is not lecturing, teaching or working in her home office, she enjoys reading newspapers, gardening and her 150-year-old home in Glen Arm, MD.
Improving the status and quality of long-term care nursing remains her main focus, however. “I feel like this is a banner I’m carrying,” she says.
Receives diploma in nursing from Sinai Hospital in Baltimore
Graduates from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
Works as clinical specialist in gerontological nursing at Johns Hopkins. Earns masters degree in public health administration from Johns Hopkins
Starts 25-year-plus term as director of education at Health Education Network
Director of nursing and VP for clinical services, Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, Baltimore
Earns doctorate in natural health from Clayton College of Natural Health, Birmingham, AL
Interim executive director of The National Association Directors of Nursing Administration in Long Term Care (NADONA)
Founds the American Association for LongTerm Care Nursing