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Eventide Jamestown medical aide Gayane Hakobyam makes a difference with empathy

Lifelong nurse Gayane Hakobyam believes sometimes the best medicine is a reassuring smile.

“I love helping residents feel happy and safe,” she said.

Gayane is a Certified Medical Assistant at Eventide Jamestown where she’s worked since 2001. She often works with residents who are experiencing memory loss due to Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementia. It’s challenging work, but rewarding, too.

“I help with their medication and many other things, but my favorite part is just sitting with them and letting them know they’re OK,” she said.

Gayane’s empathy for our residents is why she is an Eventide #DifferenceMaker. In the words of Eventide Jamestown Resident Care Manager Amy Dietrich, Gayane “Always puts residents first and goes above and beyond to make sure they’ve got everything they need.”

Empathy and experience 

Gayane was a scrub nurse at a large hospital in Armenia, her country of origin, before she and her family emigrated to the United States in the 1990s.

During that time, her country was at war, which complicated her work as a nurse in a hospital that employed more than 2,000 medical staff.

“I worked sometimes 24 hours at a time then, and I’d be in helicopters helping doctors with surgery,” Gayane said. “Comparing what I do now to that, I really did like both!”

Gayane said her English speaking skills were initially an obstacle to employment in nursing when she first moved here.

“Even though I have a nursing degree and was an RN in my country for 21 years before moving here, my English wasn’t as good as it is today, which was initially a barrier for me,” Gayane said. 

After just six months, Gayane’s English proficiency improved and she was able to enroll in a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training program, which licensed her to practice as a nursing assistant in America. 

“So then I started working as a CNA,” she said. “I was just getting better at English, and the CNA was just common sense at that point.”

Of course, with Gayane’s experience as a scrub nurse in Armenia, she was an immediate natural on the floor caring for residents.

“The Eventide director of nursing at the time wanted me to just keep going with my training, so there were classes for medication aide,” Gayane added. “That’s how I got my Medical Aide licensure.”

For a brief time when she first got here, Gayane flirted with the idea of pursuing a different career outside of healthcare, but it didn’t take long for her to realize her home and her heart were with caring for others.

“I did apply in different places at hotels and stores, but just when I applied at Eventide, I saw the people and it was just like ‘No, I need to be here. I need to help people.’ That’s just me,” she said. “I can’t go working in a store. You’re helping people in a store, but you’re taking care of people at Eventide.” 

Care and community

At Eventide, Gayane’s work day begins around 6 a.m. when she gets her cart ready so she can make her medication rounds. 

As a medical aide, Gayane is certified to dispense medications and help manage them on behalf of residents who need the help.

“She goes out of her way to make sure the residents are cared for. She puts in extra hours and is very much an advocate for residents,” Dietrich said. “She has an amazing work ethic and I can always depend on her to get everything done and more.”

In addition to her medication responsibilities, Gayane also fulfills other duties, many of which give her the opportunity to get to know people.

“I help people in the dining room or sometimes I help them with their meals,” Gayane said. “I like this part because they’re so happy just to have me there and their smiles are the best. They get so relaxed knowing I’m here. Everything is going to be OK.”

Providing comfort is essential. Gayane would know. As a breast cancer survivor, she’s experienced her fair share of health scares. Diagnosed shortly after she emigrated to the United States, she quickly learned to trust people in her community.

“Because I didn’t know English very well, it was hard to talk to the doctors, but I made it. I knew they wanted the best for me,” Gayane said. “Jamestown people are so nice. It’s a small community and I like it.”

Inspiring the future

The spirit of caregiving appears to be a strong family trait in Gayane’s household, too. 

Before moving to the Twin Cities, her daughter started at Eventide as a CNA and worked her way up to medical aide and eventually registered nurse. 

Gayane’s son also worked at Eventide before going to school and becoming a business administrator at the VA. She said both her children’s experiences at Eventide helped shape the adults they are today.

“I think anyone who is a caring person makes a good CNA,” Gayane said. “If someone cares about people truly, they’ll be good to work here.”

Now 63 years old, Gayane is looking at retiring in the next few years, but it all depends on if she can get herself to slow down a bit.

“At work, everything is my favorite and my daughter wants us to move to be near her, but I’m not going to sit at home,” Gayane said. “Talking to the residents. Helping them with their puzzles and other activities. Even if I only have three minutes, I give them the time. Whenever I have free time or a break, I go and help. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

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