Caring in Covington
On the second floor of the Covington Sisters of Notre Dame building, you will find retired teachers, nurses, death row counselors, cooks, seamstresses, and advocates for those experiencing poverty. This is Lourdes Hall Care Center, the health care epicenter for the SNDs in Covington, Kentucky, and the home to more than twenty Sisters of Notre Dame retired from official ministry.
Kelly Hyland, BSN, is the Covington SND Director of Health Care. She leads a staff of nurses, nurse aides, dietary aides, and an activity coordinator to provide quality care in Lourdes Hall and to the wider Covington SND community, helping to keep sisters healthy and engaged in ministry.
“When I interviewed for this position, my husband asked what I was thinking!” Kelly laughs. “I loved my old job and the set daytime hours, but when one of the hiring sisters asked outright if and why I wanted to be the Director of Health Care, I said with complete trust, ‘I’m supposed to be here.’ I’m not sure why God blessed me with this position, but I am honored to be a part of this mission and to walk with the sisters in all their different life stages.”
While many see working at a convent as fairly unique, this setting is not foreign to Kelly, whose first job in the field was as a nurse aide with the Sisters of Charity in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“It’s funny—22 years later I have come full circle and am back working with sisters. It’s my passion!” she says.
That passion is shared by the other Lourdes Hall health care staff and is evident in passive observation. During the interview with Kelly, a nurse relayed and discussed a message from an outside ministry partner with a sister. That shows concern and involvement beyond waiting for someone to ring for assistance. Another nurse assisted a sister with medicine at the nurse’s station, while laughing about a topic they both enjoy. That shows a desire to bring joy to the mundane. At one point, a bell went off and several nurses bolted down the hallway. A large jug of detergent had burst and spilled while a sister was doing laundry, creating a major fall hazard. That response shows a clear respect for “other duties as assigned.”
“…Everyone has this dedication that makes my heart full and lets me know the presence of God is all around…”Kelly Hyland (pictured above), Director of Health Care at the SND USA Covington Regional Center
Kelly notices these actions, too, and sings her praises for the nursing staff, especially during an unusually challenging year.
Through exhausted but happy eyes, Kelly says, “I am so proud of our team at the Heights. The nursing staff has sacrificed so much during COVID. They missed out on seeing family and friends just to try to keep everyone here safe. Those choices outside of the workplace tell me they see themselves as part of a bigger picture and we are all so grateful for what they gave up to get us through some of the most challenging months we have experienced here.”
At the start of the COVID pandemic in March 2020, Lourdes Hall Care Center closed its doors to visitors, including to sisters living on other floors in the building. While a lockdown brings safety, the Lourdes Hall staff recognized the potential side effects of isolation and worked with the sisters to find ways to promote engagement and, at the sisters’ request, outreach to the community. That outreach included making masks and protective gowns, and preparing items to distribute to homeless individuals. Staff also utilized technology to keep sisters connected with family and sisters, and assisted with distributing and responding to letters fellow sisters from outside of Lourdes Hall sent throughout the pandemic.
“We are able to provide physical, mental, and spiritual care that’s individualized,” Kelly explains. “Beyond typical health care we have tapped maple trees for syrup, hatched butterflies, brought in continuing education speakers, and applied for grants for things like the interactive projector that has activities that are fun, but also stimulate cognitive skills. We are blessed to have resources to meet the sisters’ needs and create an uplifting work environment that I wish every nurse could experience.”
Despite being able to remarkably empower and retain staff during a difficult time in the history of health care, Kelly admits there is one downside to the job.
“We want to serve so badly, but it is hard for the sisters to accept that help sometimes. Even though we feel like it is our mission to care, the sisters seem to want to care for us instead. They check in on us, and we’ve almost all gained weight from their baking!”
That support comes from other SND staff, too.
“The staff here in Covington is phenomenal. We are one-hundred percent supportive of each other. COVID turned things upside down for us, and our entire team in dietary, housekeeping, maintenance, and admin stepped up and did whatever needed to be done and did it happily, even delivering meals to sisters during one of our building-wide lockdowns,” Kelly says with an appreciative smile. “There is something about this place. The doctors we work with, the sisters’ families, our donors and volunteers-everyone has this dedication that makes my heart full and lets me know the presence of God is all around as we try to provide a living space with integrity and comfort.”