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DDS nurses bring HOPE to Oklahomans with developmental disabilities and their families

If we didn’t already know it before, the pandemic has certainly taught us that heroes often come dressed in scrubs and N95 masks rather than capes. Doctors and nurses held our hands and walked us through one of the greatest collective traumas our generation will ever endure, helping us and our families survive, recover or mourn.

Oklahoma Human Services (OKDHS) is fortunate to serve alongside many nurse heroes in our midst, including those in Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS) and other service program areas.

DDS nurses are fierce advocates for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, helping case managers, families and the individuals, themselves, navigate the complexities of medical challenges that may disproportionately affect this population over the general population. We all know that undiagnosed or untreated health problems can affect a person’s quality of life or even life expectancy, and this can be further complicated if an individual cannot easily verbalize the problems they are experiencing. But, like most #ourOKDHS heroes, our nurses aren’t ones to be deterred by challenges, and keep the needs and desires of those they serve first in every decision or recommendation they make.

When asked about DDS Area I nurse, Jackie Chavey, Case Manager Supervisor Sue Staley remarked that she is gifted not only in medicine, but also in compassion.

“Jackie is a wealth of information when it comes to the medical needs of individuals and works well with physicians when there are questions regarding medications, protocols or referrals,” Staley said. “She cares deeply for the individuals on her caseload and works to ensure they are being treated fairly. We recently had an individual that the team felt needed more medical attention for an ankle injury, and for several days, Jackie was in contact with area physicians trying to get the attention needed. In this case and others, she doesn't give up easily, even when the team doesn’t agree with the outcome. Jackie is a good listener, and the case managers not only consider her a co-worker, but also a friend.”

“I have been a Registered Nurse for 26 years and have worked in public service for almost 15 of those years, always striving to treat the individuals I serve as if they were my own family members,” said Chavey. “It takes willpower and creativity to identify resources for the individuals we serve. I always try to be optimistic with the individuals, as well as their families and guardians. Whether it be making health and safety recommendations for someone or just taking the time to listen, this brings HOPE to the individuals and families we serve. I had a guardian call me once, thinking her loved one was dying. She just wanted to share with me the ideas she had for the services. I felt so honored that she would ask me what I thought about the difficult decisions she was making. The good news is the individual did not die. I love the work I do and feel privileged to have this opportunity to help change lives and make a brighter future for the individuals we serve.”

According to Area II nurse manager, Christy Hamm, Area II nurse Annette Haggard, has embraced supported decision-making to help service recipients live healthier lives.

“Annette advocates for medical professionals to explain and educate the service recipient so they will to be able to make informed decisions,” said Hamm. “She was asked to assist with a service recipient that was non-compliant with their medical care. After listening to the service recipient’s wants, she was able to help them better understand the requests of the medical professionals. Annette then advocated to the team for alternative ways to meet the requests of the service recipient and medical professionals. She shows compassion and integrity in all of her interactions with the DDS service recipients and teams. Her attention to detail and ability to troubleshoot medical situations enables her to provide the best possible outcome for the individuals she serves.”

“Caring for our individuals is challenging and rewarding because we know that we are helping them live better, healthier lives,” said Haggard. “By working with them in their decision-making on health care it empowers them to make decisions for their medical and other care that allows them to be their best in all areas.”

When recently faced with challenges locating necessary community nursing resources for two individuals, DDS’ Area III nurse, Lisa Palmer, looked for an innovative solution to meet the need.

“Two other DDS nurses were having real challenges locating the necessary community nursing resources for these two individuals, and when Nurse Palmer learned of it, she was able to intervene and get an independently-contracted nurse to agree to serve,” said Area III Nurse Manager, Phillip Parker. “Honestly, she became a hero to me and two other DDS nurses that day.”

“I am blessed to work with the most supportive and compassionate nurses,” said Palmer. “Over the last two years, they have been quick to offer assistance any time I have needed help, so I was delighted to serve my colleagues in this way. As a nurse with DDS, I feel honored to play a part in the lives of the individuals that we serve.“

When she thinks of the work of OKDHS nurses, DDS Director Beth Scrutchins says that grit and determination are the lifeblood of both her staff, and the families and individuals they serve.

“The families we serve face and overcome challenges each day to ensure their individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities live rich, fulfilling lives,” said Scrutchins. “I’m so proud of the determination, compassion and creativity of our teams, like the DDS nurses, who are always looking to turn obstacles into opportunities, ensuring our families have what they need to thrive. Whether it’s helping a case manager navigate medical records or protocols that can transform the way they serve a family, or guiding a family to the right treatments for their loved one, our nurses create pathways to HOPE.”

Last Modified on Nov 17, 2022
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