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Renda Hansen with a Touchmark resident and the resident

Once a Nurse, Always a Nurse: Part III

May is National Nurses Month, a special time to celebrate the warm and compassionate care of nurses not only nationwide, but within Touchmark communities. Please enjoy this story in her own words from Renda Hansen, a Licensed Practical Nurse who began working at Touchmark on West Century in 2018. 

A servant’s heart from an early age 

I knew when I was in high school that I wanted to work in health care. I was taking an occupational health class, and I still keep in touch with that teacher. I always wanted to help people and be with them through life’s difficulties. 

After graduating from college, I was working in a hospital for 1½ years. In Georgia, if you work in a hospital, they forgave your student loans. I then did public health nursing for three years, which provided lots of geriatric experience. I’ve gravitated to hospice and geriatric care, even in a skilled setting, and end-of-life care for most of my career. 

Moving ahead in my career 

After that I worked in an outpatient setting doing vein work and learned a lot about lymphedema, which is helpful in my job now. I then became a traveling nurse, and that’s how I ended up in Bismarck. I was assigned to a skilled nursing center. After about a year, out of the blue, I got a call from Touchmark’s Human Resources director, who’d seen my Indeed post. He wondered if I would be interested in applying for their assisted living nurse manager position. I was interested and started working at Touchmark four years ago. 

Responding to an urgent need 

Early in 2020, I left Touchmark to work the front lines of hospice care. I worked with a lot of COVID-19 cases.   

Touchmark is a great community, and I wanted to return, so I came back as a move-in-coordinator, which gave me a new perspective on helping people. Then in December 2022, I started as the memory care nurse. 

Finding purpose through obstacles 

Some days are very challenging, but always, every single day, it is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done! Almost every day, I have a family member thank me for all I’m doing. When I hear a family member tell me that I give their loved one the best life at this stage of their life, that lets me know I am in the right place, doing my life’s work.  

Using innovative techniques in caregiving 

I meet residents’ needs and make their lives easier. The Best Friends™ Approach helps defuse intense situations. It helps you approach people and redirect or divert their attention. Really, it’s phenomenal how it gets to allow the person to successfully work through a situation. 

Fragrance in Frames really does help as well. It’s amazing to see how someone who can’t tie their shoes or dress, yet their mind remembers how to paint these amazing images. And the oils allow them to relax, which allows them to focus on that one thing. It’s miraculous. 

I find that music has a similar effect. For example, we have a former music teacher living with us. Music was a big part of her life, and hearing music is very therapeutic. We also have another resident who used to play the piano and will sometimes sit down at our piano and start playing.  Pet therapy is also most valuable for residents living with dementia.  

I probably need the residents more than they need me: seeing the joy on their faces is priceless. One resident comes into my office every day as I’m working and will sit down and fill out a stack of forms that I keep on my desk for him. He’s happy and content, and we’ll talk. I am so happy where I am! 

Spreading the love with volunteer work 

  • Alzheimer’s Association: I’ve been part of this for 1½ years. Currently, we’re working on this September’s Walk. Last year I was their photographer. I was 4 or 5 years old when my parents got a Kodak camera after participating in a timeshare presentation. My dad gave the camera to me, and I’ve been taking pictures ever since then. 

  • Brave the Shave: A year ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. At that same time, I met Connor and his family. It’s our one-year anniversary of our friendship. Several weeks ago, I shaved my head for Connor and raised more than $4,000. I have kept in touch with Connor; he’s my role model and my hero. 

  • Find a Grave: This is the world’s largest gravesite collection. I take pictures of gravestones and upload them to the site, which helps people with their ancestry search. Even when I travel, I try to take time and find a cemetery and take some pictures. 

  • Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: This is a beautiful nonprofit that I’ve been involved with for three years. I’m a volunteer photographer for them. Hospitals will call me when there’s a stillborn birth or an infant isn’t going to survive. I take family portraits for families at this difficult time. 

  • Red Cross: I’ve been involved with the Red Cross for eight or nine years. I help in disasters. For example, if people are burned out of their home, I help them get refills of their prescriptions. I also helped during Katrina. 

  • Grief Counseling: I recently was certified as a grief counselor and started a grief support group at Touchmark that is open to the public. Because some people aren’t comfortable sharing in a face-to-face setting, I also created a Facebook group (Soul{full} Support). I post what we cover in our meetings, and it’s a way for people grieving to connect with one another. Also, this month (May), I’m going to offer a support group just for the staff working at Touchmark. 

Renda’s advice for young people 

I would tell young people who are looking for a career, especially one in nursing, to explore the option of memory care. It’s a different and more rewarding experience than you can get anywhere else. 

Thank you, Renda, for all that you do to enrich the lives of others and for sharing your incredible story with us!