We recently interviewed Valli Brunken, MBA, BSN, RN with Nightingale Consulting to discuss her background and the benefit of having an RN consultant on your care team.
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I have lived in the Portland metropolitan area my whole life. I know the city and its surrounding areas very well. When I was a child and living with my parents, we lived near a very busy street. There were traffic accidents near our home several times every week. Many drivers and passengers suffered severe injuries. My mom was an RN and she would run with a large first aid travel box to help until an ambulance could arrive. I would often run after her and help her. I saw and helped with things no 6 to 10-year-old should be exposed to, but rather than scare me, it inspired me to help those in extreme need. The question I was left with as I was growing up was, “How shall I do this – in what capacity, what profession?”
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
I decided to become a nurse after my freshman year in college. I went to the University of Oregon and started in Biology because I knew I wanted to do something in the healthcare field and that is a good starting place. After a year, I knew I had to select a profession and one that would allow me time to be married, have a family, and have some modicum of balance in my life. When I studied what I’d have to do to become a nurse, and thought back on my childhood when I was helping my mom at the scenes of all of these accidents, it seemed like a natural fit. I will say, after 41 years now as a nurse, it is the very best decision I could have ever made. I absolutely love being a nurse and have mentored many young people in the profession as well.
Tell us about your background in nursing.
When I was attending nursing school full-time at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), I also worked full-time as a nursing student on a surgical ward for adult cancer patients. That is where I learned most of the fundamentals of good nursing. The manager and staff there were excellent and they taught me well.
When I graduated, I took my first position as an RN in the ICU at St. Vincent Medical Center where I worked for over eight years. Most of what I did there was care of post-surgical and trauma patients. I later moved to OHSU and managed the Trauma Level 1 ICU and was later given additional responsibility for the open heart ICU for both adults and pediatrics. I was there for nearly nine years.
After that, I went to Portland State University to study for my Masters in Business Administration (MBA). I did this to broaden my perspective and create a path for advancement or for starting my own business…whichever suited me. My final MBA capstone project was on starting a consulting firm for nursing consultation for those with serious illnesses or injuries. This project and the feedback I received encouraged me to want to start my own consulting business one day in the future. I continued my career in other areas of hospital care, most recently managing a cardiac cath and electrophysiology lab at Salem Health.
...I felt a well-qualified and well-run adult foster care home was the best option for the elderly who needed a good place to live where they could get the assistance they needed and still enjoy their autonomy.
How did you decide to get into the business of adult care home consulting?
I have been exposed to all kinds of people in need – from cancer surgery, to critical illnesses, to traumatic injuries, to people in need of an emergent heart catheterization to save their life. In all of these instances, what I really enjoyed was caring for and helping elderly clients. They were always so strong, resilient, kind, grateful, and had so many wonderful stories to tell. They also were always chock full of great advice when asked!
I retired from hospital work in the fall of 2019, but I really wanted to stay in nursing. I had a brief opportunity to work for in-home care and discovered community health nursing. I had never been exposed to that world before and it is amazing! Exploring various areas to enter community health nursing led me to care for the elderly, which was a natural fit for me and what I love.
After exploration and comparing some of my own personal experiences with elderly family members, I felt a well-qualified and well-run adult foster care home was the best option for the elderly who needed a good place to live where they can get the assistance they need and still enjoy their autonomy. I was able to participate in care in one very well-run home in NE Portland, and I was so impressed that I told my husband, “If I ever become too much to care for – take me to them!”
Looking at how I could use my nursing degree and experience, and my business education and desire to start my own business, RN consulting for adult foster care homes seemed like the perfect fit. I started my consulting firm in August 2020 and haven’t looked back. I love community health and I really enjoy working in the adult foster care home industry.
A good RN consultant is worth their weight in gold and can be an enormous asset to helping you care for the residents the right way the first time, every time.
How can an RN consultant add to the overall success of care homes?
In your May 31, 2022 blog you had a provider spotlight article where you interviewed Margaret Gikaru, BSN RN. She really said it best, and so I will echo what she said. Because of my training and experience, I can move into any situation with a resident or an owner/operator to assist them in the care of their residents.
There is a misconception that RNs are just to be utilized for delegations. That would be a gross misunderstanding of what a good RN consultant can do for you. For example, some homes have asked me to help them assess hospital patients to determine if they would be an appropriate resident and others have asked me what is the best way to handle a resident who needs wound care. Still others ask for training for themselves or for their staff.
In some cases, I notify a resident’s physician that new orders are needed, sometimes owners or managers send me orders and I transcribe the MARs for them and give them education on the medications they are giving, give them a schedule for the medications, and help them understand what can be taken with food, without food, and when is the best time to take the medications. Owners or managers also ask me to come and do assessments on residents in whom they’ve noticed changes, or residents who have fallen to determine the best course of action to ensure the resident’s optimal care and safety. A good RN consultant is worth their weight in gold and can be an enormous asset to helping you care for the residents the right way the first time, every time.
I enjoy helping new business owners be successful. I commit myself to being a sort of “business partner” with them – helping to ensure their success by giving them the best advice and service possible."
What do you love the most about the work you do?
I love helping others. I enjoy helping new business owners be successful. I commit myself to being a sort of “business partner” with them – helping to ensure their success by giving them the best advice and service possible. In exchange, I like to see them providing the residents with the very best care possible, which I believe every resident deserves!