For Rusty Ingraham, RN, caring for people at the end of life is both a responsibility and a privilege. And as director at Adventist Health Sonora’s skilled nursing facility, it’s his daily work.
“You get to know not only the resident but their family, their life history, what they like, what makes them tick,” Rusty says. “I think truly the best thing is when I have the opportunity to sit down and talk with residents.”
Since 2012, Rusty has served as director of the long-term care units at Adventist Health Sonora, which have been awarded a five-star rating by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for three years in a row. “I have a great team here and have been blessed in my long-term care career to have great CNAs and nurses to work with,” Rusty says. “We have people like Susan who work here, who put their heart and their soul into what they're doing to make it a better place for the residents. And that’s the whole thing – making it a better place.”
A lot of what this work is about, Rusty says, is relationships. "I think one thing is treating them as a family member," he says, as well as taking the time to learn what gives each person hope. “I think the whole unit finds strength in recognizing other people's beliefs and encouraging them to have that belief,” he says. “That is another way we can help them feel comfortable and respected.”
Another priority, he says, is facilitating family connections when it matters most. “Our mind does amazing things both to heal the body, as well as when the time comes to turn it off,” Rusty shares. “We’ve seen those who are waiting for a child or family member to come from out of town, out of state. They're waiting for that last person to talk to them.”
While the goodbyes are hard, they are a big part of the fulfillment Rusty finds in his work.
“There is a gratifying feeling when we get a genuine heartfelt thank you from the family after their loved one passes,” Rusty adds. “I look at it as a privilege to have been able to provide the care each person deserves."