Spotlight: Jessica Downs, Clinical Operations

HealthStar’s Corporate team is a very diverse mix of all walks of life. Today, we are nurses (like Jessica), medical billers, and office support staff. But many winding paths have converged to bring this team together. With history in auto maintenance, real estate, finance, marketing, teaching, and even some folks who moved to the continental US from abroad, we really keep things interesting!

We are all problem solvers in one way or another, but the thing that really brings us together is our love of caring for others. We may not be direct, hands-on care staff, but we show our helping hands in other ways. There are lots of treats and shared meals, plenty of “feelings Friday” discussions where we show our support for each other, and lots of inside jokes. There are no cliques – we all get along. No, seriously! It’s not always easy, but because we truly care about each other, we give each other grace and try to understand where others are in their own unique battles.

As awesome as Corporate is, if you really want to see what makes HealthStar shine, what sets us apart, and what we are all working for every day – you’ll need to look outside our colorful and multi-angled Corporate walls. Look out into “the field,” where the rubber meets the road. Can you see our clinicians, our practitioners, and our front-line caregiving staff? Maybe you also see our service office locations and some of our Clients – they’re the reason Corporate exists! We work to serve, and we work hard to make sure that we serve well!

Who else do you see?

While you’re looking out there, do you see a blonde? Not just any blonde, but a blonde who really OWNS IT? Maybe you see her climbing out of a big pickup truck with her hair flowing in the wind. Her broad, radiant, feel-good smile touches everyone she walks past. That blonde hair is a statement, and the shoes and smile are the exclamation point. Her red shoes reflect her true passion – love for all people, and a strong desire to take care of those who need it. Watch out, now – she’s a hugger, but her hug melts your worries away and leaves you feeling lighter. Just who is this happy, high-heeled hugger, you ask? I’m proud to say, this bright and bubbly blonde is Jessica “Jess” Downs, HealthStar’s Director of Clinical Operations.

Talk about winding roads to HealthStar Corporate – prior to her decision to become an RN, Jessica had worked as a CNA in HealthStar’s Duluth office. Jess even once considered becoming an attorney! We’re sure glad she didn’t go that route. Instead, while working as a CNA in a nursing home, Jess was encouraged by a mentor to pursue a career in nursing and decided to give it a try.

What a great fit for her caring personality! After getting her degree, Jessica’s career in nursing kicked off in her home town of Duluth, MN, working in a surgical center and hospital. She later worked in Wisconsin, Nevada, California, and Arizona, in a variety of clinical roles including corrections nurse, hospice case manager, and Director of Nursing. Then, in 2014, Jessica’s winding road led her full-circle right back to HealthStar. Some things are just meant to be! Because we are in the “month of love,” we thought it would be a great time to tell you a little more about Jessica and her big-hearted ways. Jessica Downs, the HealthStar spotlight is on you!

Happiness is contagious

One of the first things that I noticed about Jessica is that she always seems So Happy. It’s an overwhelming happiness, like I imagine it would be if everyone’s Facebook self was real. She projects positivity and happiness into the world in front of her, like a blinding pink tractor beam, daring sadness to cross its path. If ethereal auras were visible, Jessica’s would be pink and fuzzy, and it would probably sparkle in the sunlight.

Cass Lake 2018 Holiday Party.
Left to Right: Barb J, Michelle C, Julie S, Jessica D, Jean B.

Her happiness is wonderful in meetings, which are otherwise often dull and boring. Jess has a great laugh, bursting straight out of her heart; it is the glorious sound of freedom, a bird’s song of warm sunshine and wind ruffling his feathers as he soars through the open sky. Try to be stressed and frustrated in front of Jessica, I dare you. When you start to explain your problems, they suddenly won’t seem so bad any more. She’ll tell you “it’s OK, we’ll get through it.” And, poof – she’s right. It’s that simple. We will get through it.

Shine on, Jessica!

It’s easy to understand Jessica’s success in hospice, and as a nurse in general. A ray of sunshine in a cloudy and often difficult time, she’s exactly the type of personality to lift everyone’s spirits. Picture her sweet-talking her patients and showing them there’s nothing else that matters in the world. To Jessica, that’s the truth! She loves our HealthStar clients and pours her heart and soul into making sure that our team has the tools to deliver the best possible care!

While similar care is provided in both hospice and home care, there is a much more personal aspect to home care, because of the need for service to be provided in the Client’s living space. Jess has a great understanding of what this means to Clients. She expresses gratitude and compassion toward HealthStar’s Clients and says that she is honored to be invited into their homes. Her humility and friendliness help set Clients at ease.

Flexibility, much?

Some things are critical to a successful career at HealthStar. A sense of humor, I say. A love of food? Probably. The gift of patience? Can’t hurt. How about the ability to roll with the punches, to re-prioritize when a target shifts, or to “be the willow,” as our long-time employee Cathy Rivas-Carballo says. In my opinion, this is critical. HealthStar staff have an informal motto: “Give it a minute, things will change!”

Cass Lake 2018 Holiday Party.
Left to Right: Michelle C, Karen M, Jean B, Jessica D, Julie S.

Why is flexibility important? Take Jessica’s HealthStar history as an example. In her RN role, she started at HealthStar shortly after our transition from PCA/HMK agency to Medicare-certified agency. In the time Jess has been with us, the layout, structure, and focus of HealthStar’s branch offices, the organizational chart, and even our office addresses have changed. We have added and subtracted service offerings, and we have changed software programs many, many times. Staff have come and gone, sometimes more than once. (We joke about a revolving door. In a good way!) Throughout all these changes, Jess and the rest of our Corporate staff have flexed and sometimes flailed in the wind, but with flexibility on our side, we haven’t broken. We almost never make jokes about having a new priority. Instead, we come together as a team, again and again, and figure out how to continue.

But wait, there’s more…

Jess has also ridden the wave of change in her personal journey at HealthStar. Not including her time as CNA, Jessica first worked at Corporate, transferred to Duluth, transferred back to Corporate, and now lives in the Duluth/Cloquet area but still represents the Corporate office. Wait, what? Don’t worry about the details; the moral of the story is, she’s plenty flexible, and she goes with the flow. Jessica’s humility and “true to your roots” attitude make her approachable, and she always talks us down off the branches when things get a little too windy in that willow tree.

Open heart, open mind

Something that not everyone may know about Jessica is that, in addition to being an RN, she embraces a very unique skill set of healing. She is a Certified Level II Reiki Practitioner and says that blending western medicine and alternative medicine helps her to treat people holistically. Reiki has been around for thousands of years and is sometimes called “the laying of hands.” In practice, Reiki focuses on the transfer of healing energy from practitioner to patient, to revitalize the healing energy in the patient.

Maybe this explains why Jess has such grace and love for all of us – by sensing the energy around her, she sees more than just a single facet of a person, giving her a greater understanding of what makes us all tick. By keeping an open mind, and trying something different, Jessica is bringing a new perspective to HealthStar. There is something different about Jessica, and maybe this explains a little bit of that difference. There’s a lot that we can’t fully understand, but instead of dismissing those things, Jessica has embraced possibility and puts healing energy to great use.

But what about those shoes?

Yes, Jessica has some of the cutest shoes that I’ve ever seen. With my big clompers, I won’t be wearing anything like her shoe wardrobe. She’s not shoe crazy, she just has good taste. I know, this is four things, and usually I only do three, but this one is short. Great shoes. Hardly counts as a fourth.

By the way, Jess – how do you drive that big pickup truck with those fashion forward shoes on? And do you still wear heels when you go ice fishing?

Thanks for the positivity!

Corporate is lucky to have Jessica’s happiness, positivity, flexibility, and open mind on our side. Her love of HealthStar’s Clients shines through in every meeting. She is absolutely a strong advocate and spokesperson for the Client’s perspective and needs in receiving care. Jessica has brought a wonderful attitude of love and acceptance to HealthStar Corporate, and she has extended that attitude to the branch offices and to all of our Clients. We can’t wait to show you the benefits of this sense of love and caring!

Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation

HealthStar Home Health provides culturally-relevant healthcare services to traditionally under-served populations. Our healthcare team serves clients in a number of communities, who benefit from the wide range of healthcare services that we provide, including skilled therapies, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy. Wanting to provide a glimpse into the skilled therapies we offer, today we take a look at physical therapy and rehabilitation and recently caught up with Nissa Fougner, PT, DPT, COS-C, and Director of Rehabilitation at HealthStar, where she is currently working to grow our team of in-house physical therapists.

Skilled therapy visits are often ordered by a physician to assist in the recovery of an illness, injury, surgery or other disabling event. HealthStar Home Health offers in-home therapies through our own team of therapists as well as partnering with outside contract therapists. We work with each client to help keep them safe and active in their own home while creating individualized goals to get you back on the road to recovery.

Physical therapy (PT) is care which is focused on easing pain and helping the individual move independently, perform daily living functions and overall, live an active and fulfilling life in the home. People of all ages may require physical therapy to treat various health conditions or needs, not limited to:

  • Pain relief
  • Improve mobility
  • Recovery from a sports injury
  • Rehabilitation after a stroke, accident or surgery
  • Improve balance to prevent falls
  • Bowel and bladder control
  • Using assistive medical equipment, such as a walker or cane

When a patient has received a referral from a physician for skilled therapy services, HealthStar Home Health works with the patient and knows what discipline is required. A nurse, home health aide or skilled therapist will then visit the patient and create a care calendar depending on the services needed and extent. Each situation is unique and some patients may require different professionals to tend to the patient at different times of the rehabilitation and treatment.

When invited into the home of a patient to provide care, HeathStar Home Health and our professionals understand the need to be respectful of their wishes and environment. This allows us the opportunity to create a positive relationship with our patients. As Fougner says, “Seeing a client in their own home environment allows us to make a positive impact in their care and rehabilitation. The focus of homecare is to improve the client’s quality of life and being able to provide care in the individual’s home allows us to assess the real time picture of the setting so we can offer the best care for each environment.”

The relationship built with each client is an important piece of the care and rehabilitation process. There are some clients who are not able to leave their home due to physical, emotional and mental limitations. Nissa and her team of physical therapy assistants (PTAs), as well as the other skilled therapists who may be involved, are sensitive to each individual’s situation and possible limitations and work with each and every patient with care and respect to ensure a positive impact. Our professionals listen to the patient, gently guide and motivate, and encourage the individual to reach goals throughout their treatment.

HealthStar Home Health understands how overwhelming and challenging it can be to care for a loved one at home and also offer a variety of home health care services to help support your loved one to live a more independent and fulfilling life at home. To learn more about the various skilled nursing, skilled therapies, and mental health services available, visit our website.

With cultural care values as the foundation, our caregivers are able to provide quality service, delivering it with increased awareness and perspective. As we serve our clients and communities, we are motivated by our desire to bring services to everyone in need. Call us today at 651-633-7300 for more information or to schedule a no-charge consultation.

HHH Nissa Fogner2
Nissa Fougner, PT, DPT, COS-C, and Director of Rehabilitation at HealthStar Home Health. She has a certification in Oasis, a comprehensive assessment Medicare data collection tool used for data collection management.

SaveSave

The Role of Therapy in Dementia Care

Undergoing some form of dementia is hard, but it is also hard to understand what needs should be met. A caregiver must understand the complexities of the illness and what to expect. Not many have this ability, which is why therapy is such a valuable tool for dealing with dementia. Dementia care already takes place in the home, in long term acute centers, and in skilled nursing facilities. Patients who undergo therapy have the advantage of working with a professional who understands the effects it can have on a person’s wellness.

Types of Dementia Care

In many cases, a patient undergoes therapy across a wide spectrum of treatments. Because dementia is so varied, the therapy is also varied, but it usually spans across 3 separate forms of therapy.

Occupational Therapy

This is a form of therapy that addresses the patient’s ability to deal with everyday tasks. The patient must be able to perform basic daily tasks in order to have some form of independence. Occupational therapists teach the patient new ways to bathe themselves, to dress, to manage their medication, and perform very light housekeeping duties. It’s often these small actions that helps a patient feel like they’ve regained some form of control in their life; a vital part to their recovery.

Physical Therapy

Although not often the case, some physical therapy could be required for a patient to undergo. This form of therapy helps to regain motor skills that were lost. Victims of a stroke might need to regain the ability to use their limbs as well as dealing with dementia from the attack. A physical therapist also provides exercises and routines to build strength and balance.

Speech therapy

Patients with dementia often lose their ability to properly communicate. A therapist who specializes in the disease has the ability work with patients of dementia to build up new compensation techniques to communicate with the world around them. They rebuild their words and vocabulary so they can communicate feelings, needs, and thoughts.

Positive Aspects of Dementia Therapy

Dementia, in its many faces, can be hard on the sufferer and the caregiver. It can be difficult to deal with someone who once had full understanding to being entirely reliant on someone else. This burdens both the patient and the caregiver. Therapy addresses a wellness of the patient that goes beyond motor skills and communication techniques. Therapy looks at the patient as a whole from the physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and intellectual conditions.

Those in dementia care have the benefit of working with someone who is specialized and skilled in this form of treatment. They have the knowledge and experience to effectively treat all the symptoms better than a family member ever could. It’s only through therapy that full recovery or treatment can be had.