Connie Watring has seen quite a few changes in the nursing world since starting down that path 33 years ago.
After switching her graduation cap from Tipton High School in 1984 to a nurse's cap in 1985, her career mainly centered around the geriatric field.
"I've done work in a clinical setting, but I keep gravitating toward geriatrics," Watring said. "I think it's where I'm supposed to be."
These days, Watring is a licensed practical nurse and care plan coordinator for Moniteau Care Center in California. It's here where she cares for a second set of family: her residents.
One of the many gifts her job has given her is to see residents' families interact with their own loved ones.
"It's really nice to see families come and visit their parents or grandparents," she said. "It is doing them (the residents) a great justice."
Oftentimes, a resident with dementia or Alzheimer's disease will forget their loved ones have recently visited. The reassurance and reminders Watring and her staff offer these residents can brighten and clear up a day.
"Sometimes, a resident with dementia or Alzheimer's will forget their kids came to see them, so we just remind them when family comes to visit," she said. "We also have to remind them frequently of activities they've had throughout the day."
This reminding is only one aspect of nursing that has significantly changed since Watring first became a nurse.
"When I first started, there weren't units for dementia and Alzheimer's residents like there are today," she said. "Residents can wander freely in their unit, and there are many activities that are centered around them. The staff works to stimulate their minds as much as possible."
These units are not currently needed at Moniteau Care, but are available at Tipton Manor and California Care Center.
"Any outside noise or people can really confuse these residents, so having them in a calmer, more person-centered environment makes a big difference," Watring said. "I give a lot of credit to centers that have these units."
Another element of the nursing field that has changed within the past three decades is noise.
"Whenever you'd walk in to a center or hospital, you'd hear alarms going off non-stop," she said. "There isn't much of that here now: the call lights have changed. Nurses have beepers attached to them that have really cut down on noise."
Yet another improvement to the field Watring has worked in is ways of managing behaviors.
"When I was in high school, I was a CNA in Tipton," she said. "Back then, residents were tied into their wheelchairs with quite a few restraints. That's a thing of the past. The state would absolutely never allow that today."
Medications have also changed, Watring said.
"We're using a lot less medication now than we were 30 years ago," she said. "Some medications have been altered as a person ages. Those medications build up, and it gets harder for the resident to excrete them, and it just builds up. Now, we understand and know that less is better."
Keeping residents as "alert as possible" is something Watring and her fellow nursing staff abide by now. Thus, the use of sleeping medications has dwindled substantially.
While it may not be an improvement as much as a way of life for nurses, Watring says something that is "huge" for her job is the level of communication between herself and aides.
"They're really the eyes and ears around here," Watring said. "They can tell you more in five minutes than you can just looking at the resident."
All around, Watring has found this career to be a rewarding one.
"If I can go home after a day here and know I have helped one person out there, to have know I put a smile on one resident's face just by giving them a pat on the back, or telling them their hair looks nice, that's a very good day," she said.
Her main motto is to make life as "pleasant as possible" for her residents and to meet their needs.
"It's not just about keeping them clean, dry and fed," she said. "You have to meet their emotional needs, too."
There may have been a few forks in Watring's road, but she is certainly glad she never took it.
"I never wanted to do anything else in my 33 years," she said. "I wouldn't trade this job for anything in the world."