After a well-earned celebratory weekend away from her office, Torie Carter returned to Bayada Pediatrics in Milford in early May to find a room full of balloons and notes.
“Congratulations Ambassador of the Year” was written on the notes posted all around the director’s office in honor of her national achievement received the week before at a conference.
“Many years ago, we formulated an ambassador program at Bayada. I signed up because I wanted to make a difference in our community and our clients. Just recently, I’ve become really passionate about it,” she said.
Her passion was noticed when she became the 2018 state ambassador for Delaware and Maryland, and later given the 2017 Ambassador of the Year honor for the country.
“I spoke at the Joint Finance Committee. I went to Legislative Hall and spoke to senators and representatives and testified in front of them. I met the Governor in Milford to let him know what is happening in our community. I have had our senators come here and have town talks, not just for our nurses but for our families, as well. One of those talks kicked off Pediatric Nurses Week, and we had a blood drive out here,” she said of her advocacy work.
The concern, she added, is shared by many in her field — quality pay and increased Medicaid reimbursements for home-based nursing care.
“We haven’t had an increase in Medicaid reimbursements in 13 years. If our nurses aren’t working, then our kiddos and adults can’t stay in their homes. Clients deserve to stay in their homes where they are comfortable. They want to be with their dogs and other siblings. In order to do that, we need to have our nurses, and they need to be paid what they need to be paid,” she said.
About 110 nurses currently work out of Bayada Pediatrics in Milford. Together, they serviced 241 clients last year.
Most of those nurses only work part-time with Bayada because they hold full-time jobs elsewhere to pay their bills and provide benefits to their family, she added.
“To whoever will listen, I will spread the news,” Ms. Carter said passionately. “Home care and prison nurses just are not paid as much as nurses in other facilities. If you can pay nurses more, they can work more, and we can service more clients and better. The nurses will be happier and can support their families. Right now, our clients might have a different nurse every day of the week. And sometimes, our families have to call out of work because we don’t have the nurses. So, what the doctors order is not necessarily what the client gets.”
The changes in providers results in poor continuity of care, something Ms. Carter and other advocates would like to see changed in the future.
A committee has been set up in Delaware with the help of the Delaware Association for Home and Community Care and Hearts for Home Care to help solve this problem in the first state.
Like other volunteers, Ms. Carter advocates for her nurses and the families they serve above and beyond her full-time job as the director of Bayada Pediatrics in Milford.
“More than 240 volunteer advocates were eligible for our 2018 BAYADA National Ambassador of the Year Award. It is a testament to Torie’s tireless advocacy that she came out as the best of the best. She put in hours of extra work, in the evenings, on weekends, in addition to running a successful office and making sure that 241 children with disabilities in Kent and Sussex Counties have the care they need,” BAYADA Home Health Care’s Director of Government Affairs Shannon Gahs said.
Ms. Carter said it’s nice to be recognized, but her advocacy work won’t end with an award.
“I’m going to continue doing what I’m doing — continuing to lead people in the movement and try to make a difference with the community. But we need our legislators to buy in. As the national ambassador of the year, it’s important to lead the way and be a role model so that others who are a little anxious to talk to senators and representatives feel more calm,” she said. “I do this because I feel passionate. I was a pediatric nurse. I still am a nurse but in the director and business world now. I am loud. It’s a lot of time, and I’ve talked to a lot of different people. I’m willing to set aside time to do that because I want it to make a difference.”
Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at firstname.lastname@example.org