This week, we celebrate the nurses who are dedicated to caring for those who call our communities home. As we commemorate National Nurses Week, we recognize the hard work and sacrifice of these individuals who work tirelessly to ensure the safety and well-being of our residents. We are proud to highlight the stories of nurses throughout our organization, and to show our appreciation for them and the care they provide to our seniors. From inspiring future nurses to showing how they celebrate National Nurses Week, we acknowledge the nurses in our organization.
Today we’re featuring Vicki Brown and Laure Zulkowski, who joined the organization in nursing roles, excelled and were promoted to leadership roles.
Vicki Brown joined Westminster Communities of Florida as the Director of Nursing in 2010 and is now the Assistant Executive Director at Westminster Oaks, our Life Plan Community located in Tallahassee. After joining the organization, Brown needed to relocate to Orlando, and was then approached by Chief Operating Officer Garry Hennis about staying with the organization in an administrator role. Brown later relocated to Texas, leaving Westminster Communities of Florida, but hated to leave, and sought out openings with the organization when she returned to Florida.
“I didn’t even know he realized who I was,” Brown said. “As a Director of Nursing, I had been at Westminster Oaks just under two years. I appreciated that they said there was another opportunity for me and took that leap of faith and gave me a chance. I felt I could trust this organization and I have always felt supported, and that’s the reason I wanted to come back to Westminster.”
Regional Director of Health Services Laure Zulkowski was also persuaded to take on new challenges by leaders in the organization. Zulkowski joined Westminster Communities of Florida in 2018 as the Director of Nursing at Westminster Winter Park, our Life Plan Community on the shore of Lake Berry, and was then influenced to apply for the Administrator in Training program. She began a year of training at Westminster Towers, and as her training came to an end, she was encouraged to apply for her current leadership position.
“I was fortunate enough to be offered opportunities and I hope other people are able to do that as well,” Zulkowski said.
INSPIRING FUTURE NURSES
After education and training, mentoring has been an effective way for nurses to pass on their knowledge and experience to aspiring nurses. By offering advice and guidance, nurses can help foster a desire within young people to pursue a career in nursing.
“I’ve always tried to mentor people whenever I can,” Zulkowski said. “If I see somebody that is really enjoying wounds or enjoying something, I’ve always tried to have a conversation with them or give them resources to help them grow.”
She noted that the nursing industry has a bad reputation for not being welcome to beginners. Reflecting on how more experienced nurses don’t want to take more time out of their day to work with a new nurse or train a new nurse given the demanding nature of the profession.
“Nurses are hard to find right now and good nurses are so hard to find right now,” Zulkowski said. “If each of the good nurses that I know would mentor at least one new nurse, we could help grow our own very quickly, and they would not be as burned out so fast.”
In addition, mentors can help provide necessary resources such as educational materials or job opportunities that might otherwise be unavailable or difficult to acquire.
“I’ve always felt when there’s opportunities, they’ve been shared with me,” Brown said. She noted that when giving orientation to new team members, she encourages them to look at new positions as they come available to seek out opportunities for growth.
“If they’re looking to advance their career, maybe they are a CNA and they want to become a nurse, that we have opportunities available for scholarships,” Brown said. “We also have tuition reimbursement, so I always let them know not to shy away from those opportunities. I also share my story to let them know that there are other things you can do if you want to.”
CELEBRATING NATIONAL NURSES WEEK
Zulkowski has celebrated National Nurses Week a few ways throughout her career, with the most memorable celebration being a lamplight walk with fellow nurses.
“The team gets together right when it’s starting to get dark out and we have lamps to emulate Florence Nightingale. We walk around a city block together, all the nurses all together in one place,” Zulkowski said. “At one of the hospitals in the area, the doctors and other disciplines would come together and clap for all of the nurses. They loved that sign of appreciation.”
National Nurses Week ends on Florence Nightingale’s birthday, as the pioneer of modern-day nursing. Her passion for helping others and improving medicine is an inspiration for many today, who were called to follow the same path.
“We just want them to know that they’re appreciated!” Brown said about her team’s plans for National Nurses Week. “We’re planning on lots of food and fun.”
Throughout this week, we’ll be learning more about our nurses, both team members and residents who are former nurses, and their paths into the nursing profession and growth with the organization. Be sure to check back to follow the series.
Are you interested in joining the Westminster team and serving seniors throughout the state? To find out more, go to www.WestminsterCommunitiesFL.org/careers.