For unit manager Jackie Lewis, Hooverwood isn’t just her employer; it’s her first employer.
“As soon as I graduated, I went looking for a job,” she said. “This is my first job.”
Jackie, who has worked at Hooverwood since 1981, was always attracted to nursing. It’s a profession that “runs in the family;” Jackie’s mother and grandmother were both nurses, as was her oldest cousin. Jackie’s mother worked with adolescents and, for a period of time, Jackie did as well. She worked at Lifelines Children’s Rehab while simultaneously working at Hooverwood.
“I was doing pediatrics and geriatrics at the same time,” Jackie said. “And while I enjoyed working with adolescents, I found that I leaned more toward geriatrics. I enjoy caring for people who are unable to care for themselves.”
At Hooverwood, Jackie — a licensed practical nurse — oversees the secured dementia care unit. Her office is like a small safari; there are photos of giraffes, a few elephant figurines, and, hanging in the window, zebra-print curtains. There is also a wooden plaque (one bordered with zebra print) that says, “Laugh as much as you breathe.” It’s a positive reminder for Jackie, whose residents struggle with dementia and other cognitive challenges and often require special care. When asked about what an “average day” is like for her at Hooverwood, Jackie said, “Sometimes it can be laid back and sometimes it can be busy. You never really know.” Though her daily routine may vary, Jackie’s devotion to her residents’ welfare never wavers.
“I have a good rapport with them,” she said, “and it’s almost like we’re family.”
The relationships Jackie has developed at Hooverwood are some of the main reasons she has stayed for more than thirty years. “I tell people that, in my adult life, I was raised at Hooverwood.”
Jackie explains that much of her knowledge came from older nurses who mentored her and treated her like a daughter. She, in turn, has supported younger nurses and treated them as her own kin. “It just feels like family,” she affirms.
Jackie goes on to say that she grew up in a religious household and appreciates Hooverwood’s foundation. She also comments on the welcoming environment at Hooverwood, and asserts that for her, for other staff members, and for residents, Hooverwood isn’t a “place;” it’s a home.