Agency’s Nurses Travel Far to Aid Many
Jessica Allen, a registered nurse with Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Vermont and New Hampshire, right, provides care to Peggy O'Donnell as Buster the dog walks by in O'Donnell's home in Wells River, Vt. on November 13, 2013. O'Donnell has multiple sclerosis and has a caregiver for her daily needs. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Jessica Allen, a registered nurse with Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Vermont and New Hampshire, works on her computer and cell phone from her car in the parking lot of the P & H Truck Stop in Wells River, Vt. on November 13, 2013. Because of the nature of her job, Allen often works from the field. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Jessica Allen, a registered nurse with Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Vermont and New Hampshire, right, provides comfort to Roger Rule in an ambulance outside his home in Bradford, Vt. on November 13, 2013. Rule woke up to a home full of gas from his stove and needed brief medical assistance while his home was being vented. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Jessica Allen, a registered nurse with Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Vermont and New Hampshire, arrives at a client's home in Woodsville, N.H. on November 13, 2013. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Jessica Allen, a registered nurse with Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Vermont and New Hampshire, right, watches as John Bagonzi does strengthening exercises in his home in Woodsville, N.H. on November 13, 2013. Bagonzi recently had surgery and, while still weak, is making a strong recovery. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Bradford — On a recent Wednesday morning, Jessica Allen, a registered nurse, planned to see her first patient at about 8:30. A worrying conversation, however, brought her to Roger Rule’s Bradford home half an hour early.
Allen, of Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Vermont and New Hampshire, called Rule that morning to remind him of the visit, but he asked her to come as soon as possible. He’d been sick to his stomach Tuesday night, and that morning, he discovered a burner on his kitchen stove had accidentally been left on overnight. Allen called 911 and helped the EMTs move Rule out of his propane-filled apartment. Rule, who declined a trip to the hospital, lay in an ambulance until his place was aired out and he felt better.
The morning was cold, barely 20 degrees, and back in his one-room apartment, Rule kept his coat on. He sat in an armchair, some candles and a pack of Basic cigarettes on the stand beside him. His color television was playing, but the picture was faded.
“Are you feeling better now?” Allen asked.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I still have cramps.”
Rule, whose health problems include COPD, has no family locally. But he does have some help. His landlord, Don Morgan, gives him rides, a personal care attendant helps him with household chores and, perhaps most importantly, a visiting nurse sees him daily.
Allen helped him take off his coat, so she could change his colostomy bag.
“Why am I so exhausted?” he asked.
“Because you’ve had a long morning and a long night,” she said.
After checking Rule’s vitals, Allen reminded him to take his medication, and not on an empty stomach. “Will you make some coffee?” he wanted to know.
“No,” she said, teasing. “I know how picky you are.”
A few minutes later, Rule was drinking a cup of instant coffee prepared by Allen. Before leaving, she told him to call the ambulance or the agency hotline if he vomited again, and Rule said he would.
Back at the nursing nonprofit’s Bradford office, Allen said she tries to work “really closely” with her patients’ physicians. She called Rule’s doctor’s office and explained what happened.
“Other than that, he seemed to be pretty much at his baseline,” she told a staff member there.
The West Lebanon-based nonprofit works in more than 100 towns along the Connecticut River Valley, offering home health care, long-term care and hospice care, along with flu and other community health clinics. They serve a vulnerable population, most of whom are over the age of 65, said Catherine Hogan, director of development and community relations.
“We serve a very rural area, and in rural areas, people are statistically more likely to be poor, underemployed, and undereducated,” with limited access to transportation and health care, all of which are health risk factors, Hogan said.
Some of their patients have chronic health problems, while others receive care while they are recovering from an illness or surgery.
“The studies say they get better faster if they are at home,” Hogan said.
Allen started working with the agency soon after her graduation from Oxbow High School in 2004. She joined the nonprofit in 2005 as a personal care attendant, helping people with their daily chores. Later, she earned licensed nurse assistant and licensed practical nurse certifications, increasing the amount of care she could provide. Recently, she went back to school to become a registered nursing, which has allowed her to provide more extensive treatment, including IV care, and take on “more of a case management role,” she said.
Each week, Allen drives hundreds of miles to see patients in Woodsville, Bradford, Wells River, Corinth and Newbury, Vt. The traveling suits her. “I don’t like being cooped up all day,” the North Haverhill resident said.
Having held several different positions with agency has made her new role “a bit easier,” said Allen, who sometimes sees patients she worked with years earlier. “It helps you relate.”
Getting to know the people she visits is one of her favorite parts of the job.
“They have great personalities,” Allen said.
It’s also a crucial part of providing care for patients, some of whom are reluctant to accept help.
On Wednesday morning, Allen stopped in to see Muriel Sutton, a Bradford resident who has diabetes. When she arrived, Sutton was sitting in her kitchen, her cat Fluffy splayed out across the wooden table. Allen asked Sutton if she was having pain and whether she had any sores or wounds. She took Sutton’s vitals and asked about her blood sugar.
The doctor had taken her off one of the pills, Sutton said, and Meagan Tellier, who helps Sutton and her partner Joe Geogoun with household chores, helped explain the change.
“You help her with her pills?” Allen asked. “Awesome!”
“Someone finally talked you into it,” she added, prompting a grin from Sutton.
Sutton, who uses a walker to get around, wants to stay independent as long as possible, and Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Vermont and New Hampshire helps her with that, she said. In addition to the nurse, a home health aide from the agency also visits the apartment.
“Are you happy with everything?” Allen asked before she left.
“Oh yeah,” Sutton said.
Aimee Caruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3210.