Why Connecting with Patients Leads to Better Care

Meet Angela Blackburn, Bloomfield Hills, Director of Nursing

Of all the residents she’s gotten to know in her years as a nurse and nurse practitioner, Angela Blackburn has many favorites. She digs deep to get to know each patient, and one story from a WWII veteran stands out. A 100­­-year-old man was admitted with a broken hip to a skilled nursing facility where Angela worked. No matter how hard the staff tried to secure his leg, the man would manage to remove the brace. Even when the team affixed an alarm to the patient, he removed the device without setting it off. When Angela took a moment to ask the patient how he learned to take apart every device they tried, he responded with a story. In World War II, the man was charged with disabling tanks, rearming them and loading them up on the battle field. He explained how he learned to work in the dark and silence of the night and promptly told Angela, “Your laser beam meant nothing.” Angela’s response was to deliver a toolkit and broken items from around the facility for the resident to repair. He made so many repairs, that Angela created a memory book of his time at the facility. And of course, he never tried to remove his own therapeutic device again. 

Angela explains the incident, saying, “You just have to sit and talk to them. You have time to do that in this environment. The hospital is so busy, but here you stop, ask what’s important to them and what do they want.”

Whether a patient resides at SKLD for a few weeks or months, the nature of a skilled nursing care means that Angela has more time to get to know each patient, medically and personally. It’s one of the parts of Angela’s job as director of nursing at SKLD Bloomfield Hills that she likes best.

“They have life history to tell us about. Whether they have family or not, somebody needs to hear their story, somebody needs to validate their life. You get to do that in this job,” says Angela.

Angela, who is the director of nursing at SKLD Bloomfield Hills, has worked in nursing for over 20 years in a variety of settings, but she always finds herself coming back to geriatrics. The stories she hears from residents, the wisdom they share and the opportunity to sit and listen makes caring for seniors the most meaningful. She brings to the job decades of experience and deep knowledge of nursing, as a nurse practitioner. This, combined with her compassion and genuine interest in every patient, makes her a perfect supervisor for the staff she guides.

Angela was drawn to work at Illuminate because of the emphasis on high complexity care. “I like that the model is not on being a nursing home. Our goal is to try to transition patients back home.” As a nurse practitioner, she brings to her job as DON an unusual level of medical training and expertise.

Getting to know residents, whether they’re at SKLD for a few weeks or more permanently, is what makes every day at work so meaningful for Angela.

“I gain a sense of happiness by helping people, whether they’re going home or keeping them pain free until the end. It’s a joy for me to be with them and care for them,” says Angela.  

When she’s not hard at work, Angela enjoys camping with her five grandkids. Her next career, she says, will be to write a sitcom about life in a skilled nursing facility.