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Nurse of the month for December 2020: Janet Gonnella

Tying a Bow on the Year of the Nurse: Janet Gonnella

“Janet is the jack-of-all trades nurse at our 250-bed LTC facility. She wears many hats and her wisdom is sought out by everyone in the facility. We are lucky to have Janet as a part of our team and believe she is one of the best nurses in the country!”

With those accolades, we’ve definitely found the perfect December Spotlight Nurse to wrap up PointClickCare’s celebration of the WHO’s International Year of the Nurse and Midwife! Janet Gonnella, R.N., B.S.N., is the R.N. Nurse Education Specialist at Walker Methodist Health Center in Minneapolis. But that’s only one of the hats she wears. Janet is also the facility’s infection preventionist and oversees its wound and skin program.  

An Indirect Route to Nursing and LTC

Janet has been a nurse for 27 years, spending all of her career in long-term care. However, neither of those scenarios was on her radar growing up.

“I decided that I was going to be a veterinarian, and actually worked as a vet tech for 13 years. I liked the medical aspect, but found I was drawn to working with people. So, I went back to school at the University of Minnesota to become an R.N.”

And what took her into long-term care? Some very practical circumstances.

“When I graduated, the area hospitals were actually laying off nurses. If you wanted a hospital job, you had to leave the state – and my strong family ties meant that wasn’t an option for me. So I got a job where I could, in a 180-bed LTC facility that was opening a sub-acute unit. I immediately knew that I had found my niche.”

LTC Suits Her Personality

Janet enjoys working with the elderly, listening to their stories and taking care of them. While her current position is administrative – which is perfect for a detail-oriented person like her – she still leaves her computer to visit the residents whenever she can. Joining Walker Methodist was also a serendipitous move.

“My first job here actually chose me. I’d held a lot of different positions in LTC, from floor nursing to nursing supervising to transition nursing to RAI coordinator. I was working as a clinical consultant, and when that position ended, a former client and building administrator came to Walker Methodist. She reached out to me, asking if I’d be the director of its transitional care unit. That was five years ago.”

Janet points to many challenges in long-term care, often related to staffing ratios. She feels lucky that the facilities where she’s worked have been cognizant of resident mix to balance the staff’s time commitment to their care. Janet also feels strongly that her chosen profession is not an individual endeavor.

“Nursing is a team sport. Depending on the situation, you just have to roll up your sleeves and work together to take care of all the residents. If you foster a teamwork approach with your nurses, nursing assistants and nursing supervisors, it’s so much easier and more pleasant for everyone.”

Work and Real Life Intertwine

The time that Janet spends with her residents has been eye-opening; she has seen their appreciation, and also sadness.

“To be so dependent on someone else to meet your basic needs can be very demoralizing and depressing. Many residents apologize for even ‘bothering’ us for something. We try to make them feel comfortable, and get them what they need, without them feeling so indebted. They’ve been through so much.”

Janet’s been able to apply her work in LTC to her own personal situation as well.

“Taking care of residents prepared me for dealing with my father when he got older. He passed away four years ago and had dementia at the end of his life. He had to transition from his home to assisted living, and I was his main caregiver. Through all of that, working in LTC helped me navigate the system, and also better understand and communicate with my father.”

Tech Has Been “Huge”

In one of her roles, Janet uses the EHR to track infections. She says it would be almost impossible to do this with the once ubiquitous paper charts.

“I have to track all infections and the use of all antibiotics in our seven units. CMS requires lots of data points. So having the PointClickCare reports, and a system where I can research each of the infections, how they were treated and the resident responded, is amazing. The information is right at my fingertips.”

No Lazy Days Ahead

Janet considers herself a “behind the scenes” person, so was somewhat uncomfortable when she found she had been chosen as one of our Nurses of the Month, but she was also touched by the nomination submitted by her co-workers.

“I was raised to work hard and do a good job every day. I feel very honored that my efforts were recognized. It’s humbling and nice to be noticed.”

Ten years from now, Janet hopes to be retired. But you can imagine she’s not the kind of person who’ll be content just sitting around.

“I expect to keep busy doing volunteer work, whether it’s delivering Meals on Wheels or driving cancer patients or veterans to their medical appointments.”

Thanks to Our Honorees – and All Nurses!

We want to express our appreciation to the 12 nurses we’ve celebrated in 2020, as well as the facilities where they work. This has been a year like no other, and we can only imagine the situations you’ve faced and the challenges you’ve overcome. So many more nurses were nominated, and we’d like to thank them, too. You make your profession and LTC very proud.

December 1, 2020