“You have to impart in your employees that they are of value, that what they do does matter,” says Monica Epps, St. John’s Home Nurse Educator. It is with this philosophy that she implements her important work–training certified nursing assistants, who she refers to as “the heart of this place.”
Monica believes that her work is an investment, which directly impacts quality of care. “Our outcomes are going to be better when we have more trained people at the bedside,” says Monica. This is perhaps why, after more than 15 years serving as a nurse on the overnight shift at St. John’s, Monica decided to make a change from direct care to teaching and mentoring those who deliver care.
Seeking opportunities to grow and change is not new to Monica. After completing her nursing degree at MCC, which she says gave her a “good start,” Monica spent 18 years working for Parkridge Hospital (which is now part of the Rochester Regional Health System) as a labor and delivery nurse. However, during some of that time, she sought further growth and also worked per diem at St. John’s Home beginning with every other weekend on the overnight shift.
Monica was immediately struck by the difference of this environment over a hospital setting. “I was so impressed. Everyone here was so nice,” says Monica, who noted that people here took time to talk with you and to say hello, versus the hospital, where it was “all business.”
According to Monica, one night it came to her mind how privileged she felt to be able to do caregiving across the spectrum of life stages. Along with having been able to assist in bringing life into the world, through her St. John’s work, she now was able to bring comfort and the best quality of care to those at the end of life. “I counted it as an honor,” asserts Monica, “do you know how blessed you are to be at the bedside?!”
After 10 years splitting time between her full-time position at Parkridge and per diem overnight work at St. John’s, Monica was able to take a full-time position as a staff nurse at St. John’s. She found the work to be rewarding and motivating. “I love being a nurse. I love caring for people,” say Monica.
Through her various roles both as a staff nurse and as a supervisor working in different neighborhoods, including for a period of time serving as the full-time rehab night nurse, Monica says that she has “seen things from the ground floor.” Having this breadth of perspective enabled Monica to identify aspects of the job that she liked and opportunities for change. “I decided I wanted to be part of the solution.”
So, when Monica was wrestling with what would be the direction to take her nursing career–whether it be management or education–she noted that it was the right time to challenge herself. “I decided to take what I have and help others,” says Monica. Monica was delighted that when she posed the idea to her supervisor St. John’s Assistant Director of Nursing Julie Wood, Julie replied “absolutely!”
Most of all, Monica is grateful for the opportunities that working at St. John’s has provided. “St. John’s has allowed me to spread my wings. This is the first nursing home I have worked for and I hope it will be my last,” says Monica.
Monica hopes to impart her sense of gratitude with new clinical team members and that the lessons she has learned along the way can be of benefit. “I strongly encourage them to always keep your mind open. Be a sponge. Don’t limit yourself, don’t box yourself in.”
After 16 years doing what she loves for an organization at which she has found a home, Monica is ready to embrace this next chapter in her nursing career while also helping new nurses at St. John’s grow in their skills and experiences. “Geriatrics is a deserving field. I am up for the challenge.”