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A Decade Flies When You’re Having Fun

By January 24, 2014June 30th, 2016Moments

Nursing Supervisor Marla Ellis celebrates in March a decade with Classic LifeCare providing the finest home health care experience.

Marla has worked in a variety of settings in her career, including: surgery, orthopedics, the medical ward, anesthetic, and in plastics for seven or eight years. When she started with Classic LifeCare 10 years ago, however, she felt like she had finally found her place in the world.

“It was hard for me to nurse before Classic because I had so little time with my patients and I find that my connections with people last longer than their hospital stay. When people come in and out of your life quickly, it may save your heart, but I have built relationships with clients at Classic that I cherish long after they are no longer living. I love getting to know our clients.”

Marla, who graduated from nursing school in 1982, was initially interested in pursuing a career as a Grade 12 history teacher.

She was advised against earning an education degree because of a shortage of teaching jobs. Instead, like her grandmother before her, Marla decided to become a nurse.

She attended a three-year Vancouver General Hospital-affiliated nursing school. The government paid the students a small wage as an incentive.

“I think we were paid 49 cents per hour. It wasn’t much, but it kept you in white nylons, shoe polish and the odd pint of beer,” she says, with a laugh. “The funny thing is that when I graduated, there was a shortage in nursing jobs!”

She still managed to find employment and a great mentor, who taught her some invaluable tips about positioning a client for their maximum comfort and to alleviate pressure points – tips Marla now shares with fellow nurses and health care workers.

Andrea Warren, Classic LifeCare’s Executive Leader, says Marla came with a wealth of nursing experience and knowledge when she started with Classic.

“I love her exuberance for life and vaule her opinion on any ethical or medical issue that may arise,” says Andrea. “She’s youthful and can hang out with a 20-year-old or an 80-year-old and have just as much fun with either.”

The biggest challenge of Marla’s job these days is dealing with loss because she considers many of her clients to be part of her extended family.

“I find that when I make a connection with a client – especially the older men, who may have been in the war, immigrated to Canada, are widowed, have a language barrier – they just rock. They constantly surprise me. You never know what they’ll share with you.

“People are shockingly flexible. A lot of them have taken up learning computer skills. I had a client around Christmas time who was Skyping with his granddaughter and we both had tears in our eyes. This is a man who fought in World War II. Imagine what he’s seen in his life and how much has changed.”

While she finds that most clients tend to keep their guard up around medical professionals, Marla says she has earned the trust of many of them and “you can learn a lot about the soul of a person when you take the time to communicate with them.”

At Classic, Marla does home visits with clients, assessments, makes sure their careplans match their individual needs and wishes and oversees the delivery of care by health care workers.

When she first visits a client, she often assures them, “We don’t have to talk about your pills and your catheter right now.” Instead, she gathers information about who that person is, how they live their life, what’s important to them.

“I find it fascinating how many ways you can scramble an egg. You can add milk, add water, add cheese, add the egg after you heat up water, the list goes on. It’s important that we pay attention to how a client wants their egg scrambled because it’s those little things that people want to keep constant, especially when there may be other changes happening in their life.

“My mom is in care. My dad was her primary caregiver until he died and he was just amazing to her. Since she’s been in care, she has lost 11 pounds. I think it’s so important to pay attention to the food. It’s so important and not just in a nutritional way. It’s social and creates the feel of home.”

When she’s not working or caring for her mother, Marla is a hockey “fanatic” and a Twitcher (AKA bird watcher.)

“Bird watching is certainly not something I would have been interested in when I was in my 30s, but I love it. It gets me outside. Sometimes my brain feels like a messy Etch-A-Sketch and when I get into nature, it’s like someone has given me a good shake and everything becomes clear and quiet. Nature is soothing.”

For the last year or so, her goal has been to find some work/life balance between her career and finding time with her husband and adult son. It helps to keep a pair of rubber boots in her car so she can stop at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary near her home and recharge for a few minutes.

The once aspiring history teacher gets a good dose of history and teaching these days. She talks history with many of her clients and has the opportunity to teach when she does home visits and works with health care workers.

“I have a love of history, but some of these people have lived it. And often in a very traumatic way – psychologically and physically. I feel privileged that they share their histories with me.
“It’s funny that I get my fill of history now, considering I am a nurse and not a history teacher, but sometimes your life leads you on a journey you couldn’t have imagined,” she says. “I believe you should honor the past, live for today and create a future.”

By Lissa Miles