OHCA Oregon Caregiver Spring Summer 2020

www.ohca.com SPRING/SUMMER 2020 The Oregon Caregiver 23 PROFILE Representative Rachel Prusak (D-Tualatin/ West Linn), a nurse practitioner, shares how her career in nursing has informed her work as a legislator. Your professional background is as a nurse for Housecall Providers, serving home-bound adults including assisted living residents. What inspired your career in nursing? I faced my own health issues when I was young and spent many days in the hospital and at medical clinics. I never forgot the compassionate and skillful way that nurses cared for me while I was recovering. As I look back now, I realize I was always a caretaker, and I always felt fulfilled when I could connect with people and care for them well. I followed that pull into a nursing career. I have now been a nurse for 22 years and a family nurse practitioner for 12 of them. Currently I care for homebound patients by seeing them where they live, whether that’s a private home, an adult care home, or a long-term care facility. What do you enjoy most about the nursing profession? Representative Rachel Prusak (D-Tualatin/West Linn) POLICY MAKER I love helping people through their good and bad days. My priority is always to provide patient-centered medical care, whether I’m treating a cancer diagnosis, end-stage kidney disease, a broken heart, or end-stage dementia. I find it truly fulfilling to treat my patients with compassion and evidence-based medicine, by asking questions, listening to their experiences, and understanding what they are going through to support their goals of care. How has your nursing background informed your work as a legislator? Currently I specialize in primary, palliative and hospice care, serving people at the end of their lives. You learn a lot about what’s important to people by spending hours listening to their dreams and fears, sharing their faith, and giving them hope. However, I know there is so much work left to do to improve healthcare for everyday Oregonians. I’ve also seen a darker side of the healthcare industry; I’ve seen my patients not seeking specialty care because insurance does not cover the visits or rationing their medication because they can’t afford the high costs. The intimate knowledge of the struggles my patients face informs everything I do and drives me to keep working to improve our healthcare system. Nurses are one of the most trusted professions, and you can count on us to advocate for our patients’ needs. As a legislator, I am able to bring my unique knowledge as a frontline worker and healthcare professional to my work as a state representative. While the vast majority of long term care providers have not experienced a COVID-19 positive patient or resident, others are truly on the front lines of this epidemic. Can you share a little about your experience during the past few months from the perspective of a nurse and as a legislator? In these unprecedented times, my job as a nurse practitioner is to do what I’ve always done: treat my patients, work with families, and do what is right for them. We have had to be creative about how we achieve this. Like many medical providers across Oregon, my employer, Housecall Providers, suspended in- person visits because we did not have enough personal protective equipment to protect patients, staff, and caregivers. We balanced the need to minimize outside visitors with the need to manage patients’ chronic health conditions. We are now set up to practice telemedicine, and, if urgently necessary, we still make home visits using personal protective equipment to keep our patients safe. I also received training and offer the COVID-19 test for our homebound patients. In addition to my work with my home- bound patients, I spend hours every day talking to and listening to constituents struggling during this time. The conver- sations with my constituents allow me to advocate for their needs in the state’s CONTINUES »