Anita Payne knows what makes a good CNA.
“A true heart,” she said. “Honesty. Patience. And being willing to learn, because nursing is forever changing. People can’t come into this thinking they know everything.”
Anita has been with Homeland Center since 2005, and she is “truly grateful” for those 13 years and counting. She moved to Harrisburg from her native Pittsburgh to get a better education for her daughter. Once here, she persevered to get an interview with Homeland because everyone told her, “It’s hard to get in, but it’ll be the best place to work.”
Since coming to Homeland, she has worked in skilled care, activities, and now in personal care, where she hopes to stay until her retirement.
“It has the proper name because it is so personal,” she said. “Our staff gets along so well. It’s like one big, happy family.”
Anita grew up helping elderly neighbors, whether it was going to the store for them or shoveling snow. “You’re giving so much happiness to people,” she said. “It means a lot to make sure they’re lighthearted and smiling and never need anything.”
She once heard someone say that CNAs needed to “think outside the box.” She pondered that phrase for a long time until she realized that it meant her duties are “whatever the residents need.” One resident had always worked with his hands and needed to be active. She thought about it and approached Esther Burnside, administrative assistant to Homeland President and CEO Barry Ramper II. Could the resident deliver mail? It’s a duty he now performs faithfully.
“We brought him a postal hat,” said Anita. “He got his Homeland volunteer badge. Esther gets the mail ready. He comes into the Olewine Gathering Room and sorts it and puts the room numbers on it, and he delivers it. It’s a team effort. I thought of something for him to do, and Esther helped make it happen. And he loves it.”
At one training session, Ramper gave the CNAs a small mirror, and Anita came to realize it wasn’t for her reflection.
“It was for the reflection the residents see of me. It’s very important to me that the residents are very comfortable with me, and that they have light hearts. I want to be honest with them. I want to communicate. I want them to feel like they can tell me anything.”
Anita loves her 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. shift, sharing the day with residents and getting to know their families. Outside of work, she enjoys going to movies and socializing with friends. She and her 29-year-old daughter enjoy a tight bond, telling each other everything.
She has worked in other care settings – one in Pittsburgh where standards were high, but another in central Pennsylvania where she worked two weeks before leaving, unable to tolerate the lax care. Treating residents with respect is essential, she said.
“All of us at Homeland understand that caring for our residents is our most important duty and I know from top to bottom, everyone is trying to do their best for the residents,’’ she said. “I’m proud to be part of Homeland Center, and I’m grateful.”