BY MELANIE BUCK –
Pam Chamberlain has spent the majority of her life caring for others and plans to spend many more years doing the same. Chamberlain has been a nurse at Rich Mountain Nursing and Rehab for 35 years and has been a part of 5,398 residents’ lives during her tenure. “The people I work with and my residents make it a gratifying job,” Chamberlain smiled.
Chamberlain was born in San Jose, California and was raised in Oregon before moving to Mena in 1976. Her nursing career began after she played caregiver to a local man whose wife said to Chamberlain that she was so good at caregiving that she should become a nurse. She took that advice and received her LPN license in 1981 from what was then Rich Mountain Vo-Tech. “I worked, raised my children, and went to school all at the same time – I don’t know how I did it,” said Chamberlain.
She began her first nursing job at Leisure Lodge, now Mena Manor, and moved over to Rich Mountain Nursing and Rehab. Those are the only two ‘jobs’ she has had in her lifetime. And she wouldn’t want it any other way. “The residents are like family. One of our residents, a little lady, comes to our office and just sits there. Another sits and waits for us to come in every day. It makes my day.”
Not only are the residents like her family, her actual family has played co-worker to Chamberlain as well. One of her daughters has worked alongside her for 15 years. Chamberlain’s son and son-in-law have also worked with her.
Vicky Hughes, Director of Rich Mountain Nursing and Rehab said that Chamberlain is an invaluable employee that ‘has a wealth of knowledge from best practices, which is always changing, and Pam is a constant in that system. She’s very old school,” said Hughes.
Over the years, Chamberlain has worked with so many co-workers. She explained that in nursing and caregiving, it’s a revolving door with many coming and going often. However, she said, “the longer I stay here, they sometimes come back and I can see the difference, the growth.” She explained that she enjoys seeing them turn from CNA’s to LPN’s and RN’s and feels she’s a part of their growth. “I like seeing them stepping up and moving positions.”
As for her legacy, Chamberlain hopes that people remember her laughter and tears and love for her residents who give her more than she could ask for. “I get a lot of love and hugs. A lot of nurses want to just work in hospitals and doctors offices and I know they’re needed but they don’t see the need in facilities like ours. They may not need a lot of medicine but they need a lot of love and they return it. You can see by their smiles, they may not remember your name but when they see your face, they know it. To me, that is amazing.”
Chamberlain plans to continue to keep her staff and residents motivated for years to come, and is proud to call Polk County her home. “When I first moved here, it was a very quiet town and still is. It’s still fun to go swimming and to catch a movie. I wouldn’t trade my life here.”