Mary Thomas: Director of Nursing, EHS Care Center

Mary Thomas
Director of Nursing, EHS Care Center

story by Kelly Harley     photos by Tonya Perry

Mary Thomas considers herself to be hands-on when it comes to her daily duties. As the director of nursing for Effingham Health System’s (EHS) Care Center, she is dedicated to helping patients achieve a better quality of life. “When a resident is admitted to our facility with a chronic and or acute illness, such as a stroke, fracture or change in mental status, we meet with the resident and family members to decide on goals to improve the condition and outcome,” says Thomas. “Within a few weeks of therapy or medication management, to see the recovery and hear the family members share their experience, is very rewarding.”

     The EHS Care Center is a 105-bed nursing home and is more than just a place to come for treatment. The Care Center is designed to provide residents with a multitude of services and all-around comfort. “We provide each resident with the highest quality of care, ensuring patient safety is our top priority while maintaining a quality of life that optimizes each resident’s level of functioning,” says Thomas.

     The Care Center employees nearly 100 people including licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and certified nursing assistants. All of the certified nursing assistants are also certified nursing restorative assistants (CRNA), who have completed a 40-hour course on restorative nursing. CRNAs help patients with active and passive range of motion, therapeutic exercises, gait training, infusion therapy and respiratory therapy to name a few. A medical team is also actively involved in resident care.

     Along with services such as physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and Hospice care, the Care Center provides residents with nutritious meals and activities aimed at improving quality of life. Through a grant, the EHS Care Center received iPods, computers, earphones and iTunes gift cards for residents to enjoy. “For those residents that are depressed or experiencing an unusual day, we download the music they like onto the iPod and let them listen to it,” says Thomas. “The music calms the residents down and some of them even sing along with the songs.” Residents enjoy Bingo one to two times a week, occasional trips to the bowling alley or Carey Hillard’s, as well as monthly birthday parties. There’s also a beauty shop on site and free haircuts and styles are provided by the Pink Ladies Auxiliary.

     Thomas says the goals of the Care Center are to provide residents with an experience that makes them feel at home. The staff does that by focusing on long-term quality care and mixing a level of excellence with compassion. “Compassion motivates people to go above and beyond their job. Our staff cares for our residents as if they are their family members,” says Thomas. “We have a CRNA who buys clothes for the residents who do not have clothes. We have a CRNA who brings an iron to work and irons the residents’ clothes.”

     Another way you can tell the Care Center staff is committed to excellence is the number of years they have been there. Around 25 percent of the staff have been employed at EHS for 10 years or longer. “Longevity speaks volume in healthcare because of all the changes and demands on the nursing staff,” says Thomas. “We are proud to highlight that our low employee turnover represents that EHS is an excellent place to work and demonstrates our commitment to employee retention, professional growth and patient care.”

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