Chris Masters initially decided to explore a career in nursing because of the employment opportunities, job security and the steady pay it offers. But the personal fulfillment she’s found is what’s kept her in the field now for more than 17 years.
“I grew up as a Christian Scientist, so I really had no prior knowledge about nursing at all before I became one,” she recalls. “At the time, I had young children at home and a marriage that wasn’t going well. I just wanted to get into a job that I knew would allow me to support my family.”
Earning her licensed practical nurse degree from Sanford-Brown College in 2006, Masters entertained thoughts of working in an exciting, fast-paced environment like an emergency room. Instead, she took a job at a nursing home where she learned firsthand the ins and outs of geriatric care. A year later, she joined the staff at Delmar Gardens of O’Fallon, where she still happily works.
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For Masters, working with the elderly and long-term residents has proven to be a surprising and eye-opening experience.
“I absolutely love it,” she says. “It’s so much more rewarding than I ever thought it could be. In this kind of setting, you really get to know the residents and their families on a deep level. I don’t feel like you get to do that as much in other nursing fields or in a hospital.”
Working 40 hours a week on average, sometimes more, Masters’ shifts start at 6:30 a.m. and run through 3:30 in the afternoon. No two days are exactly the same as the constantly evolving needs of her residents shape how she spends her time. Typical responsibilities are checking residents’ blood sugar levels and administering medications, helping them get dressed, monitoring their health throughout the day and relaying information to doctors and family members.
Masters says that one of the most difficult and challenging aspects of her job is also one of the most rewarding.
“When I’m working with long-term care residents, the most fulfilling part for me is preparing them for end of life,” she says. “Death is going to happen to all of us eventually. Being able to help the individual and their family know what to expect and keeping them comfortable as they go through the process is very meaningful.”
One of Masters’ most cherished work memories was accompanying a resident on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., which is a way to thank Americans for their service in the military.
“I was caring for a resident who was a former Marine, and he really wanted to do one of those flights,” Masters remembers. “He had a lot of health issues and was told that he couldn’t make the trip because he required too much care. I’m also a former Marine, and the reason he finally got to go was because I was going to be with him. It was such a huge honor for me. He passed away about two weeks after we got back.”
Taking a compassionate approach to care is something Delmar Gardens prides itself on and promotes as a culture, not just for residents, but for staff as well.
“Everyone looks out for each other and we really try to be supportive of our fellow staff members,” Masters says. “It’s a whole family vibe and mindset.”
Working in a nursing home or long-term care facility requires a special kind of temperament, flexibility and a great deal of empathy.
“You really have to practice patience — with your residents, the other staff and with yourself,” Masters points out. “A lot of times, our residents just need someone to sit with them for a little while. You have to be willing to stop what you’re doing to hold their hand and console them when they need it.”
Although she doesn’t yet know what the future might hold, Masters feels that for right now, she’s exactly where she needs to be.
“I love my job so much,” she says. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”