…and our 2017 DiversityNursing.com Annual $5,000 Education Award Winner is… Tom Dion.
Tom is a Memory Care Unit Manager at Cape Heritage Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Sandwich, MA on Cape Cod. Tom was surprised and very happy when I called him to deliver the good news that he is our 2017 Winner!
Tom didn’t get into Nursing right away. His journey started at Westfield State University in MA as a student in Exercise Science to become a Physical Therapist. He graduated in 2008 and received his BS in Exercise/Movement Science. After school, he worked a variety of jobs, including moving furniture, medical equipment technician, as well as ice sculpting for weddings, the Bruins, and other functions.
He was always drawn to healthcare and when deciding on a new career path, he looked to do something that had more meaning. In his words, he “needed a spiritual change”. In 2012, he went to Nursing school at Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital School of Nursing and graduated with an RN diploma. I asked him what was the draw to Nursing.
“I like the idea of helping people. Nursing provides fulfillment and meaning.”
While growing up, Tom spent a lot of time with his grandparents. He was very close to them. He was drawn to working with the geriatric community because of his understanding and love for his grandparents.
Right out of Nursing school, Tom started working at Cape Heritage as a Staff Nurse doing sub-acute rehab. After 1 year, he was offered a position as the Wound Care Department Head and promoted to Assistant Director of Nurses.
Tom has worked there for 2.5 years and has gained valuable administrative and management experience. He’s now a Unit Manager of the Memory Care Unit, which is a restraint free facility. The memory care unit is his favorite because he’s able to “lend a voice for the patients that aren’t able to speak for themselves.”
"The residents provide the purpose that I was looking for."
He is always assessing his patient’s capabilities to ensure they are provided with everything needed to maintain their optimal level of function.
“It’s important to pay attention to your resident's behavior, because it often provides the most crucial insight you have into identifying a problem.”
He talked about a male patient of his, who requires reassurance on a continual basis. He is unable to communicate his needs at times, which may be as simple as which day of the week it is, what time it is, or using the restroom. “Working fast to address the root cause of his worry, and keeping him comfortable is a challenge I look forward to every day.”
It’s important to have a sense of humor because in the memory care unit,
“You live in their world”.
The reality of their world is abstract, a world that they can and will explain to you, in bits and pieces. “The rewarding part of my job is working with the residents to complete these thoughts and fill in the gaps.” When helping the residents, these moments create a lasting impression that leaves him with a sense of fulfillment he hasn’t gotten anywhere else in life. As a co-worker frequently reminds me, “when I leave work, Tom, my hands are clean and my heart is pure.”
Cape Heritage also provides hospice care. It’s not an easy job, but it is very much appreciated when family members thank them. Tom is often in awe of his team and the work they do. They are truly special people to work with this population.
I asked Tom about being a guy in Nursing. He said it was a big transition from working with mostly men to working with primarily women. He said “it’s been interesting in a good way” and he doesn’t feel he’s treated differently because he’s a guy. He’s treated well and enjoys his Monday – Friday 7am-3pm shift.
Like so many Nurses I talk to, Tom says the best part about Nursing is it can lead you in so many directions – hands-on Nursing, teaching, case management, etc. “There’s always something different you can be doing.” He’s enjoyed experiencing different parts of Nursing.
Tom’s future plans include getting his WOCN (Wound Ostomy & Continence Nurse) certification. He remembers one particular female patient that stands out. She came in with a wound the size of a basketball on her back and it was deep into her spine. He could actually see her spinal column. Because of the technology available, CPI (closed pulse irrigation), he was able to disrupt the bacteria and create a completely healthy environment. Many people thought it was impossible to heal and close her wound, but within 7-8 months she was completely healed!
While working full time, fishing and enjoying activities outdoors, Tom plans to pass the national boards and receive his WOCN certification by the end of this summer. Teaching is in his future as well.
Congratulations Tom Dion – we are proud of you and see great things in your future!