Well-known in Waukon, Iowa, nurse Kayla Rowan, LPN, is rolling through her shift full of familiar faces at the Good Samaritan Society nursing home.
“She’s a local. Everybody knows her family, knows her,” says Lori Johnson, Society director of nursing at the long-term care center. “Residents, families tell me that they never worry about their loved ones when Kayla is working."
Feeling a pull to health care four years ago, the 32-year-old left a career in business, started as a Society CNA and recently earned her way to LPN.
“Most of (the residents) don’t have options to be able to be at home anymore. So, this is their home. I like that I get to be a part of their life,” Kayla, who grew up on a nearby dairy farm, says.
She is no stranger to hard work. Her parents ran the farm and had full-time jobs on the side. Kayla’s boss Lori says the caregiver's efforts are second to none.
“She is the best of the best,” Lori says. “She’s been in the kitchen before. She’s been in housekeeping. If you asked her to go out and mow the lawn she’d go out and mow the lawn.
“She really cares genuinely about everybody and their welfare no matter what hers is in the background."
‘Everything changed’ following tragic news
Climbing the nursing ladder, Kayla began pursuing her RN in 2021. Unfortunately, tragic news put the pursuit on pause.
“I started my RN year last year. I took my first class and then my mom was diagnosed with cancer,” Kayla says.
“Not even three days later, everything changed. They found that it had metastasized and that it went from stage one to stage four."
A driving force in her life, Kayla’s mom Pam was facing terminal lung cancer.
“God probably gave me that option to be in health care to be able to take care of her,” Kayla says.
There would be more family members to look after.
“She was diagnosed in March and not even three weeks later my husband was diagnosed with bladder cancer."
After four surgeries, her husband Eric is now in remission. Between them, the couple has five children.
Sadly, Kayla lost her mom, a proud grandma, four months after diagnosis in 2021. Pam was 65.
“To lose my mother was tragic. Even knowing that they’re going to go doesn’t make it any easier. I actually struggle more now than I did a year ago,” Kayla says.
“It helps to have the co-workers and my management team that had the empathy to get me through it."
Residents appreciate the care
During it all, Kayla still found time to pitch in at the nursing home.
“How she balances it I don’t know but she knows that she’s supported. She knows that she’s family here. The residents love her. The staff love her. The greatest gift is just having that family atmosphere here. Sanford and GSS brings that,” Lori says.
Resident Ronald Vanderohe refers to Kayla as "a top girl that’s hard to beat."
“When you have a problem, you like to get it taken care of. She can do it,” Ronald says nodding his head.
Kayla even showed up on a day off to evacuate a wing of the building when a routine inspection found structural damage.
“She was here within 20 minutes of my SOS call and said what can I do to help?” Lori says. “We couldn’t be more blessed to have her."
Earning the DAISY Award
It’s why she’s being honored with the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses.
“This is Kayla’s moment, and she deserves to shine. She is God’s light,” Lori says. “Her calling truly is to care and that’s what she does."
Getting the award was overwhelming.
“Ha, well I cried," Kayla says. “There’s other people that deserve it too. My co-workers are great here and I couldn’t do what I do here if it wasn’t for our team here."
Lori adds, “She puts everything in her day no matter what. Every person counts no matter what."
“I think she’s going to go a long way in her nursing career. I really do. Her care and her compassion will lead forth everything else."
Finding fulfillment in service to others.
“We’re all put here to do something that is going to impact somebody else,” Kayla says. “I’m grateful (for the award) because it makes me strive to be better."
Already extraordinary, Kayla plans to be a registered nurse in 2023.