When you imagine Disney World, what do you see? Cinderella’s castle. Children wearing Mickey Mouse ears. A little girl on her father’s shoulders, her face awash in lights and fireworks. Visitors from all over the world, crisscrossing the main street with their backpacks, strollers, camera phones in hand.
How about an octogenarian absorbing the magic for the very first time?
A face like a map of eight decades traveled. Creases curved around her smile, etched lines of memories and feelings and sights and sounds, yet she’d never had the chance to spin inside a teacup, or gaze at the giant golf ball of Epcot, or have melting ice cream dribble down her fist, standing in the hot Florida sun, while Goofy and Pluto point and laugh from behind a shop window.
Kara Veaunt, Director of Nursing at Consulate Health Care of Safety Harbor, explained that while everyone she has met in her career has impacted her and taught her something new, she recounted one special experience in particular. During a Make-a-Wish program for seniors, one of her residents won the opportunity for a dream trip. She decided to go to Disney World for the first time ever, and chose Veaunt and the activities director to join her.
“To see an eighty-year-old woman go to Disney for the first time… That was something pretty special,” she said.
It’s clear that Veaunt forms strong connections with her residents. Safety Harbor Unit Manager, Anita Wood, said that Veaunt “has a love for our residents and a devotion to them, as well as to our staff.”
Veaunt understands the importance of offering compassion not only for patients, but for her team members, too. Maybe it stems from once being in their shoes. She said that she struggles with how to express her true gratitude and respect for her staff and the strong work ethic they possess. “I understand that they’re working hard, and their job is not easy . . . You just want to be able to give them more and show them that you appreciate them, but how?” she wondered.
Despite her worries over potentially inadequate support and encouragement for her staff, Wood revealed the true thoughtfulness and kindness that Veaunt brings to their community:
“Kara goes above and beyond in her job. Her office door is always open to listen, help, and advise. . . We appreciate her as a member of our team and value her as a friend.”
In Veaunt’s words: “I like to know everything that’s going on. . . I don’t think you can sit behind a closed door and be effective. I think the staff has to see that you’re willing to do whatever they do.”
Wood wrote that Veaunt even took it upon herself to ensure every staff member received a Christmas gift—which she bought and wrapped herself—and coordinated their holiday party.
However, Veaunt not only appreciates and cares for her team, but also trusts them, which is no small feat for someone as impassioned and invested in the well-being of residents as she is.
A self-described “micro-manager,” Veaunt explained: “This job has afforded me some opportunities lately when I needed to take some time off to be with my family when they needed me. Luckily, I’m comfortable doing that, because I have a good team. I didn’t have to worry about what was going on… Anyone who knows me would know that I would worry, all the time, and honestly—I just didn’t.”
Despite her apparent work ethic, compassion, expertise, and experience in the long-term care industry, Veaunt displays an attitude of humility and integrity.
“I try to show my staff that I’m willing to do whatever it is that they’re doing. Whether it be going out and taking an assignment, or staying over because the rest of my staff have to work.”
When asked about advice for someone seeking a career in long-term care—or more specifically, as a director of nursing—Veaunt initially said that she looks to others in her same position for guidance. While she has worked in long-term care for 15 years now, she only recently accepted her role as director of nursing. She spoke about the job in terms of courage:
“I think if you just work hard and do the best you can, even if you’re afraid of doing something, sometimes you have to step out of the box and just try it. I mean, I certainly didn’t think I’d be able to do this job, and I guess I’m doing all right if I’m still in it!”
At the end of the day, she said, “I’m very appreciative of the opportunities I’ve been given, and for the people who believe in me.”
Veaunt’s story, like those of many other Consulate CHIRP employees, are true testaments to the power of believing. To believe in one’s own ability, in values, the potential of others, and the magic and joy that still waits for discovery. It’s a powerful force.