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Nellessen new Director of Nursing at CHRC

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  —  Quinn Nellessen of Colfax is the new Director of Nursing at the Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center.

Nellessen began her duties as Director of Nursing in April following the resignation of Teresa Waddell as Director of Nursing.

“It’s really wonderful to have this opportunity,” Nellessen said.

Nellessen began working at Colfax Health and Rehab several years ago as a Certified Nursing Assistant while she was going to nursing school. She also has worked at CHRC as a Licensed Practical Nurse and as the Minimum Data Sets (MDS) Coordinator.

MDS is a process required by the U.S. Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services for all individuals in the care of Medicare or Medicaid medical facilities.

“I have always wanted to do long-term care. When I graduated high school, I worked in a group home as a personal care worker. They were older developmentally challenged individuals, and that was my passion. I enjoy working with the elderly. Working in a hospital just did not seem as ‘right’ as working in a long-term care setting,” Nellessen said.

Many of Nellessen’s nursing school classmates wanted to work in emergency or in surgery.

“I think it’s because I had that experience. Ten years I worked at the group home and having the experience there, I think is what made me want to be here,” she said.

“Doing my clinicals at school, I thought I would love to do maternity with all of the babies. But it turned out I didn’t enjoy that as much as I did the long-term care … these people all have unique stories and unique personalities, and you can develop a bond. In a hospital situation, they are there and gone. And I love having the bond with the residents. I love those relationships,” Nellessen said.

Nellessen grew up in Colfax and is a graduate of the Colfax High School Class of 2000.

“This is my hometown. There is a sense of community. I see a lot of familiar faces. I just met a lady the other day. She said, ‘oh, you’re Jackie’s daughter. I went to church with you when you were just a little girl.’ I didn’t know her, but she knows me. It’s stories like that I get to hear,” Nellessen said, noting that she enjoys the sense of family at Colfax Health and Rehab.

“I feel very fortunate and lucky. When I graduated, I knew long-term care was where I wanted to be. I thought Director of Nursing maybe after my kids had graduated from high school. Maybe I would achieve that goal then. I achieved it a little sooner than I thought,” she said.

Nellessen has two children, a six-year-old and a daughter who recently turned 15.

Going to nursing school “was always something I wanted to do. But I held back. I had my daughter. And I had a job that I loved. I became a manager after a few years (at the group home) … (nursing school) was something I always wanted but never took the chance to do. Then the (group home) closed. I no longer had the job, so I could follow my dream and go to nursing school,” she said.

Nellessen completed the nursing program at Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Different directions

“You always hear that a Director of Nursing is a challenging role and you are pulled in a hundred different directions. But you never really know it until you experience it,” Nellessen said.

“The most interesting part of the job is seeing all of the pieces come together. You see all of the hard work of each department and everybody’s input and effort and the team effort of getting the person well and getting them home. Or in the long-term care, at the end of life, how you have developed that connection to support them with their loved ones,” she said.

“It takes a whole team. I could not do it alone,” Nellessen added.

Nellessen said she feels quite fortunate that the staff at Colfax Health and Rehab includes several former Directors of Nursing and past state inspectors to provide background and support.

“Being able to bounce things off them. The team is amazing,” she said.

New facility

Nellessen has been at CHRC long enough to also have worked at the old facility on High Street.

“Seeing the residents enjoy this facility, seeing how calm they are. It was noticed that they were sleeping better when we came here. They had their own private individual rooms. It’s been nice for them,” Nellessen said.

At the new Colfax Health and Rehab, residents have a separate room for activities instead of sharing the activities with the dining room, she noted.

Residents moved into the new facility August 1, 2013.

“I actually did not work that day. I did not get to see  the transition. It went really smoothly … they got everybody moved in one day. I can’t imagine the dedication to plan that and to pull it off,” Nellessen said.

Moving into a new building was an adjustment for the CHRC staff as well.

“We had to figure how to make it work, too, just because it is a different building configuration than the old building,” Nellessen explained.


Every morning when she comes to work, Nellessen goes on her rounds to check on the residents.

“Then we have our morning meeting, and I am briefed on everything that has gone on during the night,” she said.

As the Director of Nursing, “I get to do everything. Hands on with the residents. Developing and teaching CNAs and nurses on important (procedures) that come up with new guidelines … I’m pretty much doing anything everywhere,” Nellessen said.

The activities department at CHRC is terrific at developing general activities for the residents, but sometimes a particular individual will need an individual activity — and that is part of Nellessen’s job as well.

“One woman is starting to ‘sundown.’ Her prior job was as a cook. So we had to come up with activities that she can do. She likes to wait on tables, so she clears the table,” Nellessen said.

“Sundowning” is a psychological phenomenon associated with increased confusion and restlessness in people with some form of dementia and is particularly evident in the evening or while the sun is setting.

Another woman enjoys gardening, “so we started a little garden trough in the courtyard. We have other residents who also like to garden,” Nellessen said.

Nellessen oversees the restorative nursing program, too, which focuses on activities to help maintain physical well-being, such as walking programs and range-of-motion activities.

Nellessen oversees the assisted living apartments as well.

Colfax Health and Rehab has 40 long-term care residents; 12 residents in the Community-Based Residential Facility; and 12 residents in the apartments.

“In long-term care, you get to take care of the whole person. It’s not all about medical issues. Why I love it here is you can make them happy and see them through. And you see people blossom after the adjustment period. Then they say, ‘can you take me home’ when they want to go back to their room. It’s a great feeling to know they are comfortable and settled,” Nellessen said.

“With the short-term, to see them walk out the door, I love that too,” she said.

Once success story was a man no one expected to see go home.

“There was a gentleman who came in and said he was just going to be here short-term. And I thought, ‘there’s no way he’s going to be short-term. He’s going to be here long-term. He will never walk out this door.’ He was debilitated. Bed ridden. And he walked out the front door,” Nellessen said.

“We got him to that point with therapy and all the other things. To see that, it was amazing. I don’t know if there was a dry eye. We developed such a bond with him because he was here quite a while. To see that. It was just great. Very fulfilling. He defied the odds, I felt,” Nellessen said.

Nellessen enjoys the bond she develops with residents, but she also is delighted with the friendships she sees residents making with each other.

For example, there’s “the men’s table.”

“We’ve got eight men who like to sit together and eat their meals. So we pushed the tables together. They have bonded well,” Nellessen said.

CHRC does a men’s breakfast once a month.

“They just enjoy that so much. Once a month, they get to go to The Square and have their breakfast there. The ladies get Beauty Boutique. The other day, we heard that the ladies were going to protest and picket. So maybe we need a ladies’ breakfast too. It’s great to see those relationships,” Nellessen said.

Personalized care

In recent years, nursing homes have started to move toward a more home-like atmosphere and away from the institutional-type of setting.

Nellessen says she anticipates the trend will continue.

“I see it going more toward personalized resident-centered care. It’s not anymore you wake up at this time, you eat at this time, you go to bed at this time. You wake up when you want to. We have a 24-hour open kitchen. Wake up when you want to. You eat breakfast when you want to. You get to do what you want when you want. It’s personalized,” she said.

“We serve from 5  to 7. But if they don’t want to eat at that time, they can eat when they want. If they want to eat at three o’clock, we will make their meal then. Now they can get a home-cooked meal whenever they want. The CNAs do not ‘just’ do CNA work. They do activities too. They know (the residents) so well. They know what they like to do. They spend time with them doing their activities. Just seeing it evolve (is an interesting part of the job),” Nellessen said.

“The people who are involved with their lives everyday do more for them than just one particular task. They develop a relationship. We keep our CNAs and our nursing staff in one location (at CHRC), so they are always working with the same individuals. They develop bond and trust,” she said.

The CNAs help the residents with a variety of activities.

“If someone broke a necklace, (the CNA) helps fix it. They serve the meals. It’s not dietary serving the meals. It’s a good thing, I think,” Nellessen said.

Nellessen says she feels a sense of purpose being at CHRC and that she is “in the right place at the right time.”

“I love being part of this facility … I feel like when I started working here, it was the perfect place. I was in the right place. It has always felt like home to me. I love getting up every day and coming here. It is part of my life, and I love it,” she said.