Well, I'm late to the party but I wanted to share my own experience with you all. I have been an RN for 38 years, and a mother for 29 years. Most of my nursing experience has been with adults, mothers & babies and pediatrics. At home, another job was waiting for me. My husband became fully disabled with lung & heart disease, one son was diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety, my daughter was diagnosed with depression and an autoimmune disorder, and my youngest son is severely intellectually impaired and has seizures.
My youngest son is a big, strapping young man, 6'3", with the mind of a 1 year old. He needs full assistance with pretty much everything. He can walk, but cannot talk. In fact, he's prone to eloping so he needs almost constant supervision. He's fully a foot taller than me and strong as any man. So, about five years ago, I realized that my back was just about to the wall.
It took us about a year to get the state to agree to full funding for him. We approached an agency that provides host homes for DD clients. A host home, if you don't already know, is one which is owned by the caregiver. The client pays a set amount of room & board and lives with the family as a boarder. We liked this model better than a group home because of DSs high need for supervision. It took us about another 9 months to find the exact right home for him, with a wonderful family who had already been doing this for several years. We placed him there when he was 17; his caregivers welcomed him with open arms and fully blended him into their extensive family.
Now, here's where my personal life and professional life crossed paths. The agency did not have a nurse on staff at the time, so they asked me if I would do training with my son's potential caregivers. Well, of course I would! I spent about 3 hours with the family, teaching them all about how to feed him, trip train him, deal with seizures, and ways to keep him safe. I wrote it all up and submitted the document. About a week later, the agency called me and asked for my resume. I started out prn, doing training with caregivers and within a couple months we all agreed that this was a much bigger job. I joined the company and the rest is history. I have about 75 clients who live all over the state.
I believe that what I bring to the table is my experiences on both sides of the bed, so to speak. Without my broad nursing experience I would not be able to provide the kind of nursing support that many of these clients need (about 75% of our clients are over 45, so they're starting to develop those chronic illnesses typical of that age group.) On the other hand, I've been the mother of a severely DD child and children with mental health issues which are also common to DD clients. As a younger nurse I would not have been able to do this job.
It never occurred to me in a million years that I could go to work with a non-profit agency, but I absolutely love it. I love going out on home visits to see about my clients and do training with their caregivers. I love interacting with and training their social workers too. In fact, I love working for an agency where every single staff member is working toward providing our clients and caregivers with the best and safest living experience possible. This is the most fun job I've ever had!