Desiree Greenwood

Her work as a Direct Support Professional and now as a Medication Assistant at Pony Bird provides an ideal training ground for someone working toward a degree in nursing, but Desiree Greenwood says it’s the individuals she gets to care for who are her real motivation.

“You can see it in their faces,” Desiree says. “They truly love the people who take care of them. They light up when you come into the room.”

A student at Chamberlain School of Nursing, Desiree has been caring for individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities at Pony Bird for four years. She started as a DSP before receiving her certification as a MA1. Previously she had worked as an aide in nursing homes.

“The people we take care of here are not sick or unhealthy. They have disabilities and rely on us for living their daily lives. You can see how much it means to them. The work we do for the individuals makes their whole lives better,” Desiree says. “You can see it in the way they smile.”

In addition to the certification training she received to become an MA1, Desiree says she also received guidance from others who work along side her.

“I was lucky to be trained by one of the best nurses ever here,” she says. “She was so thorough. When I got out onto the floor I was confident.”

The other learning curve at Pony Bird is getting to know the residents individually. That comes from spending time together just like any other friendship.

“There’s no training for that. You just have to be yourself and let them get to know you while they let you get to know them and become a part of their lives,” Desiree says. “Like anyone else you have to build that relationship, allow them to open up to you and share yourself with them. You become invested in their lives.”

Getting to know individuals with disabilities has allowed her to grow personally, she says.

“I’m a lot more open minded. When I’m out in public, and I see people who have disabilities, I recognize them as people,” Desiree says. “I can see it in my 4-year-old daughter. It has opened her up to a lot of understanding to the needs of others. I’m so glad I have been able to introduce her to the people here. I think that’s the same for many families here.”

Spreading that message to the community also helps everyone involved.

“People sometimes make judgments for no reason at all. The individuals at Pony Bird are loving people with disabilities,” she says. “They are just like everyone else. They have feelings and emotions. They mature in their own ways. No two people go from teenager to adult in the same way. They are no different. People judge them because they don’t know them.”

Working with people who need care and assistance with their physical well-being is an advantage for a nursing school student.

“I get a lot of experience with the medical terminology, and all the hands-on training helps,” Desiree says. “I have been able to familiarize myself with medications and their possible interactions. I have learned different styles of feeding and how to recognize when someone isn’t feeling well.”

The idea of a future in caring for others began with career classes she took when she was in high school.

“The more I learned about nursing, it just kind of fit for me. I like taking care of people,” she says.

The role of DSP allows the direct care staff to provide much more than just daily care for people who need assistance.

“It’s beyond what you know. It’s not just the physical tasks. You find a friend you can get to know personally,” Desiree says. “This is not just a job. It’s about getting to know people. It’s about community.”