Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cathy Link reflects on her first year at Room In The Inn

by Cathy Link, RN
Recuperative Care Manager, Room In The Inn

It’s hard to believe a whole year has passed since I began my journey home.  Being a nurse in Nashville for over 30 years has led me down many roads, ending right here on Drexel Street.  Those other paths almost prepared me for the most challenging position I have had.

My entire career has been one of assisting and caring for the most vulnerable, the powerless, and the disenfranchised through the VA, public health, public schools, psychiatric intensive care, and community psychiatric crisis services.  But to face day to day the overwhelming and complicated medical, social, and emotional needs of truly “the least of these” has stretched me in ways I had no idea I could reach.  I have been honored to care for, advocate for, share in joys and sorrows, celebrate healing and life, feel the pain of death, and the fear of continuing the struggle of homelessness for hundreds of referred individuals.

Even my past work experience did not prepare me to daily face this very ill population who lack adequate funding and access to health care.  Just this year we have sheltered and cared for those who have had open heart surgery, brain surgery, lung surgery, surgery for cancer, surgeries for multiple orthopedic injuries, gynecological surgery, chemotherapy, severe COPD, post stroke, amputations, uncontrolled diabetes, kidney failure, dialysis patients, liver failure, severe rheumatoid arthritis, congestive heart failure, major depression, schizophrenia, major phobias, bipolar disorder, severe anxiety disorders, burn patients, and HIV/AIDS patients. The lack of funding and limited access to care continues to shock me and break my heart.

To add to these burdens approximately 90 percent of those entrusted to our care have drug and alcohol addiction with the complicating social factors of disconnections from family and friends, incarcerations, and criminal records.

Anyone remotely involved in the world of healthcare knows how fragmented our system is.  To hobble together and care for not “these people” but “my people” is like working on a big puzzle; I’m trying every day to put the pieces together.

I am ably assisted by my recuperative care coordinator, Charlotte West.  She guides me and keeps me sane
Charlotte West
by keeping all the spread sheets and statistics of recuperative care, by the loving and caring staff throughout Room In The Inn, from the staff who prepare our food, to direct care, to day center staff who provide case management consultation and support, and to our own workforce team who assist with job placement.

Last of all, the care provided for our friends and neighbors has been a gift from our wonderful partners, which include United Neighborhood Health's Downtown Clinic, Metro General Hospital, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, HCA Hospitals: Centennial, Skyline, Southern Hills & Summit, St. Thomas West and Midtown, MTMHI, Nashville Cares, and Comprehensive Care Center.

It is my privilege to serve.