Member Spotlight: Jennifer Kuiken of Happy Siesta Health Care Center

April 28, 2022

Jennifer Kuiken began her long-term care career at age 16 when she became a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at her local nursing home, where she still works today, 25 years later. As the administrator and director of nursing at Happy Siesta Health Care Center in Remsen, Jennifer enjoys having the opportunity to touch the lives of others every single day.

How did you become interested in the long-term care profession?
As a 16-year-old in a very small community, there weren’t many options for employment. The local nursing home was hiring CNAs for $5.35 per hour, which was a lot at the time for the options we had, so that’s what I did. I loved working as a CNA. I felt like my work mattered. Caring for the elderly population as a teenager definitely came with its share of challenges though. I experienced things most teenagers do not. But I also got a glimpse into a world generations before my own that taught me about a much simpler time. I learned about gratitude, appreciation, dignity, faith and humility. I have had the honor of caring for people in their most vulnerable moments, and in turn, was blessed with immense purpose. It felt so natural to go on to nursing school after I graduated high school. I really did not give it much thought. It was like it was just what I was supposed to do. Twenty-five years later, I still work at that same nursing home.

What do you like most about working in long-term care?
Being entrusted with the care of someone’s loved one is a huge responsibility and honor. I do not take that lightly. Working with the residents and their families on a plan of care that leads to their desired outcomes, whether that be rehab to home or transition to long-term care, and being successful in that partnership is extremely rewarding to me. Nursing is a fulfilling career. You touch people’s lives with your daily work, more so than you ever realize. Your words and actions in a patient’s time of need will be remembered by that patient and family for years to come. And when you are recognized and thanked years later, that is heartwarming.

What would you tell others to encourage them to consider a career in long-term care?
If you are looking for a profession with immeasurable payback, long-term care is it. I challenge anyone to name a profession that has more return for your investment than that of caring for our elders. Our residents become our family and the experiences we share with our coworkers are filled with the stuff that create unbreakable bonds.

What lessons have you learned working in long-term care that also help outside of work?
Working in this industry has taught me many qualities that have transcended to life outside of work. Patience, humbleness, fortitude and appreciation are among the top.

When you’re not at work, what do you enjoy doing?
Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family and pursuing my educational goals.

What is your favorite quote and why?
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Ghandi

Caring for others in their most vulnerable moments changes one’s outlook and causes reflection on the true purpose of life and the value we place on certain things.

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