WAYNESBURG – Anita Simms, the daughter of a Greene County dairy farmer, wanted to go to nursing school after her high school graduation. Unfortunately, the class she would have entered at the West Virginia University Medical Center in 1964 already was filled. Not to be deterred from her desire to enter a nursing profession, Simms decided to pursue work as a nurse’s aide.
“I liked helping people. I always have,” said Simms.
In the last 50 years, Simms has witnessed many changes in the long-term care industry, but in September, she put away her scrubs for good and retired from the Golden LivingCenter in Waynesburg where she has worked since March 1989.
When talking about the changes she has seen, Simms heralded the mechanical lifts that exist today to help transfer patients much more safely. While the process still requires two caregivers to oversee, she recalled it taking three or four people to transfer patients at times.
“Manually transferring patients used to present such a danger to us and them,” Simms recalled. “The mechanical lifts have been a godsend.”
Other advances in medical equipment such as electric beds, customized wheelchair seating, digital thermometers and digital blood pressure cuffs have offered much more convenience and assist with patient safety. Simms clearly remembers being nervous when converting from paper documentation to electronic charting systems, but is quick to say these changes have helped her take better care and spend more time with a patient.
“The medications are much better today, too,” said Simms.
Even though technology has revolutionized health care, Simms said most people are still the same, and her naturally nurturing spirit shines through even today. She worked in the Alzheimer’s unit, which required her to complete additional dementia and behavioral education.
“We understand what Alzheimer’s does to a person much better today. We know how to best approach them for care and what mediations can help them, too.”
Simms speaks fondly of her time working with her patients. She specifically recalled one patient who was a wonderful lady – always smiling or laughing. Another patient would joke when asked about her long-term boyfriend.
“Boyfriend? I’m not old enough to have a boyfriend!” the woman would reprimand.
Simms talked about how many of her patients still can do things but may just need to be cued, assisted or encouraged.
“You’ve got to treat people with respect, dignity and lots of , as if they are part of your own extended family,” she said.
Married in September 1977, Simms plans to spend retirement with her husband, taking long weekends to nearby sites she wasn’t able to visit while working. Gettysburg, Antietam and a train ride through West Virginia while stopping to visit antique museums along the way top her list of activities.
“I have no regrets of not being a nurse and have loved the work I do and the people with whom I work,” Simms added.
Ilene Richezza, director of Alzheimer’s Care and Services at Golden LivingCenter, said, “Anita’s caring and gentle spirit will be dearly missed by the patients, families and staff of the Alzheimer’s Unit.”