Hidden Hero: Karen Laycock
Gem City Home Care in Dayton, OH
Our Hidden Hero this week is Karen Laycock, a Respiratory Therapist turned Home Care Specialist at Gem City Home Care in Dayton, Ohio.
We spoke to Karen about her career path, how she deals with the daily grind, and her advice for others going into home care.
So tell us about yourself and how you became a respiratory therapist?
I was born and raised in a small country community in Mercer County, Ohio called Fort Recovery. I was raised on a poultry farm. After college in Dayton, OH, I got a job at St. Elizabeth Hospital where I worked for 15 years as a registered respiratory therapist. After St. Elizabeth Hospital closed, a new hospital opened up north of Dayton and I went there and worked at Upper Valley in Troy as a respiratory therapist for several years. And in that process, I got into home care via another employee who worked in respiratory home care.
Then I went to PrO2 Respiratory and became the Clinical Director of their staff for respiratory and started their in-home ventilator program. I was the one teaching the patient’s family how to operate the home respiratory equipment and ventilators. Through that position, I met one of the coordinators from Gem City Homecare and I ended up doing home care coordination for Gem City, coordinating care for patients coming out of the hospital and rehab centers.
Why did you decide to work in healthcare in general?
Honestly, my love for taking care of people. Also, my grandma was a nurse, I had an aunt that was a nurse, I have several sister-in-laws that are nurses. That's just kind of who I am.
You're out there for your patients and that's what makes healthcare unique.
What’s your favorite part about being a home care specialist?
The patient contact. I just like knowing that what I'm doing is doing good and that I'm taking care of the patient’s needs and making them more content in their home environment. If there is one thing that I was fearful of when I left the respiratory field, it was not having that patient connection anymore but fortunately I still have that connection at Gem City. I talk to patients all day long so it still fulfills my caregiver needs and that's really what I'm here to do.
How do you deal with the daily grind?
I mean, I'm not gonna lie. There's definitely those days... I think you got to just look at the big picture. What we do, it's not for everybody, and it can be frustrating. But you have to look at the end result. Those phone calls that you get after the care is given and those messages that you get that say “Wow I'm so glad that you were there to answer your phone” or “Thank you so much for giving me this bed in such a timely fashion, it kept me from keeping my loved one out of the rehab and got them home.” It's those kinds of things that keep you going.
At Gem City, I work a lot with orthopedics patients who need total knee and hip rehabilitation, and getting those people back up on their feet is very satisfying.
Do you have a role model?
Hands down it’s Cindy Welch. She was an original owner of Gem City Homecare. She's no longer there, they sold it several years ago, but Cindy was my idol, she still is. She's a wonderful person with a great heart. For Cindy, taking care of the patient was number one. That was first on her list of things to do and that's exactly how I think you need to approach it to make sure that the patient is taken care of. When you can do that, you're successful, and she proved that with the company that she ran.
What would someone be surprised to know about working in home care?
That my phone is on seven days a week! It's a full time job. I know that a lot of it is me, and how I do things. I can't just look at the phone and think, “That's probably a patient calling, I'm going to let it go to voicemail because it's Saturday.” I just pick up the phone because that's just who I am. So I think what people should know about home care is that it's not a 9-to-5. The people that I work with, including myself, we're “on” seven days a week. You're out there for your patients and that's what makes healthcare unique.
I’ll talk to nurses as well and the nurse will say, “I was on my way home and it was 6:30 and they called me to go check on somebody who isn't even one of our patients. But I went back in to see this patient.” Home care is a commitment and I think people are doing it because they love what they do.
To us, you’re already a hero but if you had a real superpower, what would it be?
To bring peace on earth.