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Careers in Aging Week - Meet Zane!

March 8, 2019
Categories: Our Community

March 3 - 9 is National Careers in Aging Week. We're celebrating by spotlighting a few of our employees in a variety of positions. Learn what's rewarding about working in this industry from their perspective.

Zane Sundberg

Convalescent & Rehabilitation Nurse Manager

Panorama employee for 5 years

I never pictured myself working in a field like aging services. After high school, I worked at a few different lumber mills. In 2009, the mill I was working for decided to close its doors and they offered a benefits package that provided funding for retraining in a new career. I had no clue what I wanted to study so I spoke with a college advisor about my academic future. She advised me to seek a career in a high demand industry, like nursing or accounting. Since I had never considered either one of these fields, I still didn’t have clear direction on which I should pursue. The advisor encouraged me to look into nursing; she said it would be the biggest bang for my buck, offering the most opportunity and a good fit for my personality.

I decided to give it a try. I teamed up with a few other new students as study partners. There were twelve guys in my class of twenty-six. We did our clinicals in a variety of settings including hospitals, psychiatric, and nursing homes. I didn’t think nursing home work was a good fit for me but, as graduation got closer, a friend who was working as a nurse at Panorama encouraged me to at least check it out.  I decided to drive over and take a look. I lucked out with an on the spot meeting with the Director of Nursing who gave me a tour, and I was really impressed with how nice it was. I started in long-term care (evenings and night shifts) and I remember being very overwhelmed but the staff here are so supportive and welcoming. I’m grateful to the aides, nurses, and managers who took me under their wing and trained me as a team.

Once I started getting to know residents, my thoughts about working in nursing homes changed very quickly. The type of relationship I get to build with them is special. It’s professional but it goes deeper than a typical patient/provider relationship. In sub-acute areas, we’re working together towards a goal of getting back home or transitioning to an increased level of independence. While long-term care specializes in making the environment feel as close to home as possible. It’s hard for anyone to adapt to living in a facility and having to ask for help when they need it; so the difference you can make in someone’s day is huge. The perspective I’ve gained has made me more sensitive to aging. Some of the most rewarding things are the issues that seem so small on the surface but end up being very important to residents. They are so appreciative of even the little things I do because it has a positive impact on their day.

In June of 2016, I was offered a manager position in long-term care. It’s been a learning process and I’ve had to work hard to develop my leadership skills but the experience of building a strong team and giving them a sense of support has been so gratifying. I spend a lot more time doing paperwork now but it also gives me a little more time to spend communicating with families and doctors to coordinate all around care. I still love to work the floor, administering treatments and medication when I get the chance because ultimately I’m here to take care of the residents.

It’s hard to say what the most rewarding part of my job is because there are many. Since working here, I have realized that I relate to older adults more than I do with most people my age. A few residents in particular have honestly changed my life. They have adapted to living in a long-term care facility and it makes them reflect on the things they did when they were young, and what’s most important in life. They share these insights with me throughout our time together, inspiring me to value my own goals and dreams.

When new residents are first admitted, I get to introduce myself and help them go from frightened/mad/sad to more comfortable and confident that they’re going to be cared for. No body’s goal is to be living in a nursing home having others take care of them, so it can be an extremely difficult time for people. I like to go and give them a pep talk about what I hope for them and explain my understanding of their situation and how I can relate to it. My goal is to leave the room knowing they feel much better than when I walked in.

Of course, there are tough moments as well. We occasionally experience loss and it can be devastating, especially if you’re the first responder for someone experiencing a medical emergency. I’ve been there and it can be scary. At the same time, having the ability to help someone in their most urgent time of need is incredibly rewarding.

Because of this career, I’m doing things I never thought I would. One of my teachers always said, “Fake it until you make it.” That doesn’t really sum it up correctly but no one knows exactly how to be a nurse manager until you become a nurse manager. It’s been a learning process but I didn’t get the position because I write thorough MDS notes.  I got it because I can communicate with people and help provide the support they need. That’s the key to being successful in aging services. Consider the people you’re serving and the life they lived prior to being in a facility.  How different it must be for them to need help with things that they never needed before. Try to see things from their eyes and do your best to make their experience one you yourself would be grateful for.

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