Marie’s Journey 

Since the pandemic began, many nurses have questioned their roles. A career they once felt called to has become overwhelming or feels disconnected for them. For Marie Porter, Long-Term Care Unit Manager, ChildServe’s mission is what keeps her focused and inspired throughout the pandemic – as it has  throughout the last 20+ years. Thank you, Marie, for sharing your personal story and insights as a nurse at ChildServe!

Like so many others in healthcare, I became interested in nursing because of my own family’s experience. When my mom was 16 years old, she lost her mother. She later shared how traumatic this time was for her. She told me stories about how poorly her mom was treated, and it triggered something inside of me. I knew people deserved to be taken care of better than she was, and I knew I could be the one to do it. My mom still has a piece of my schoolwork where I claimed that “When I grow up… I want to be a nurse.”

In 1995, I walked through ChildServe’s doors for the first time. I was in high school taking an LPN course through Central Campus in Des Moines – we came to ChildServe as one of our clinical sites.

Initially, I was terrified of how fragile the children were. But watching the staff interact with the children was amazing. My instructor helped me give one of the residents a bath. She taught me that while they were fragile, at the same time, they were just kids. Before leaving my first day, I had filled out an application and interviewed for a part-time CNA position. I knew I needed to work here!

Since then, I left a few times to try something different, but it never lasted very long. My heart was always at ChildServe. It’s going on 18 years since the last time I returned. Over the last two decades I’ve cared for many people that have changed my life.  People who need the most care in life often have an enormous impact on those around them.

One young man I cared for years ago had a very serious illness and knew he was likely going to pass away. This individual was able to process and understand everything that was going on with his health, and he was able to advocate for himself as well. I accompanied him to the ER multiple times as his illness progressed, and I particularly remember his last ER visit. His doctors explained that his body was nearing the end of his disease process and beginning to shut down. Without major medical changes he would not live much longer. I sat with him holding his hand and not knowing what to say. He looked at me and asked “Marie, do you believe in heaven?”

It took me a moment to respond. I was terrified to tell him something wrong or influence the decisions he had to make. I just decided to do what felt right. I told him that yes, I indeed believe in heaven. He then asked me to get his mom and the doctor. When they came in the room, he very calmly told them that he was ready to go back to ChildServe. He requested to go back to his “home” and be surrounded by the team that cared so much for him. He wanted to be comfortable, be with his mom and be with his ChildServe family.

This was many years ago, and somewhat difficult to make happen. We did though. Everyone at ChildServe made it possible. Everyone picked up extra shifts so there wouldn’t be any moment that he was alone. He passed away very peacefully a few days later surrounded by his team and his mom.

You may read this story and think that nursing is sad and hard. And on some days, it is. I wanted to share that story because it was one of the most meaningful experiences I can remember. I think it’s important to talk about these moments because they’re part of what it means to be a nurse. When you need us on your hardest days, we make sure you’re not alone.

At the same time, nurses also get to create lots of joy and help families make the best of every day they are given. At ChildServe, my team members are experts at helping kids be kids, and finding ways to create inclusive, accessible fun no matter what your abilities may be. Our mission is to help kids live a great life – and we take that very seriously. Just check out ChildServe’s Facebook page for hundreds of examples (including our Noon Year’s Eve tradition, dress up days and Caribou, our facility dog.) I also formed a “Fun Committee” which focuses on ensuring staff also get to have great life moments at work.

Life has changed in many ways since I first arrived at ChildServe. I continued my education, received my RN, BSN from Grandview University, received new certifications, became a mother, sent my son off to school (he’s going to be a senior next year!) and so much more. I was fortunate to find opportunities to change my role at ChildServe to fit my current lifestyle while continuing to expand my clinical expertise. I’ve worked as a CNA, an RN, a day shift supervisor, a weekend shift coordinator, a wound care specialist, an AM shift supervisor, and I now serve as the Long-Term Care Unit Manager. I’ve supported children in inpatient, homecare, group homes and outpatient clinics – all at ChildServe.

Sometimes nurses have the impression that coming to Long-term Care will let you “lose your skills” compared to other care settings. In my experience, that couldn’t be further from the truth. At ChildServe, you will use your clinical skills. Because our Long-term Care program serves children with complex medical needs, every single nurse is encouraged to continue sharpening skills by adding certifications and taking on leadership initiatives through our Clinical Ladder program.

Because of this environment and my own interest in learning, I feel like I’m still growing even after decades as a nurse. The amazing people that work at ChildServe have so much to offer. I truly believe that all my leaders and co-workers over the years have helped me grow into the leader I am.

If you’re looking for a fresh start in your nursing career and want to provide life-changing care on a great team, I invite you to consider joining us at ChildServe.  I’m proud to have invested my life in helping others – as a nurse, a caregiver, a team member, and a leader – and I hope our culture and mission will inspire you too.

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ChildServe improves the health and well-being of 5,200 children each year through specialized clinical, home, and community-based programs and services. We serve children with developmental delays, disabilities, injuries, and other special healthcare needs.

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