On this episode of the Home Care Heroes Community Edition, Sara Moore interviews Carlita Vassar, CEO of At Home Care Missouri. The episode is all about service to the community. Carlita has followed her passion for community service in many avenues. It was only natural for her agency to step up and set up COVID vaccine clinics across Missouri.
We're especially excited about the community podcasts! Your host, Sara Moore created AHomeCareCommunity.com to unite the home care community, a site offering resources, communication forums and more including the Caregiver of the Month award. The origin story of A Home Care Community was profiled here. Learn more at the "A Home Care Community dot com" website.
Home Care Heroes is produced and sponsored by Ankota - the Software for the Heroes of Home Care. We truly embrace the notion that caregivers and home care companies are heroes. Our top priorities simplicity, caregiver retention and outstanding service. Visit us at https://www.ankota.com.
Ken Accardi (00:00):
In this next episode of the home care heroes, community edition, Sara interviews, Carlita, Vassar, an amazing agency, owner and nurse who right now is running a COVID vaccine clinic across the state of Missouri out of her home care agency. Enjoy.
Welcome to the home care heroes podcast, community edition, uniting the home care community. Here's your host, Sara Moore,
Sara Moore (00:28):
Welcome to another episode of a home care community, the podcast. Today I have the honor of speaking with Carlita Vassar from a home care agency in Missouri called At Home Care. Carlita, Vassar, MA, BSN, RN, CCN is the director of nursing and CEO of at-home care. She has also been a registered nurse for over 25 years. Carlita completed her undergraduate degree in nursing and her master's of arts and leadership and management. She received her certification as parish nurse through the Deaconess foundation, and currently she's completing a doctor of management program at Webster university. Thank you very much Carlita for joining me on this call today.
Carlita Vassar (01:08):
Thank you very much. I need to take you around with me more often. I sound good!
Sara Moore (01:14):
You have an amazing background. That's why you're here today. So I've known you as a customer, as long as I've been with Ankota, which will actually be four years at the end of this February. Over those four years, I've enjoyed working with you and your team. But this episode is really to talk about your accomplishments and a day in the life in your shoes at at-home care. So let's start there.
Carlita Vassar (01:40):
So as owner operator at home care, it's a different for me because it's not just a place of employment. This is my baby. My duties every day, working range. I always say that I get to do my job in the evening after everybody gets to go home, because during the day I am focused on one of the four offices and whatever has in their plate from recruiting efforts to assisting with billing or helping with scheduling now wonderful and cutter system. So my duties range day to day, we are also huge and community partnerships. So I work tirelessly on containing our wraparound services with our community partners, from energy assistance to healthy, generate more partnerships with food pantries, as well as providing aid and assistance for just basic general needs, such as meals delivered to the home. Also, one of the things that I would say I do consistently every day has we do try to do a morning mental touch, which is something that we started about a year ago. And what it is is we just want to pause in the morning to be grateful for the day that we have in front of us and grateful for the day that we have behind us. That that's usually how I, we start every single morning. You're at home care.
Sara Moore (03:26):
I love that. That's, that's a wonderful way to start, especially with this past year and the challenges that we've had. I'd love that. So your credentials remark on how committed you are to your professions. And you've also participated in the national council of state board of nursing as a member of the expert panel. Do you wanna talk about this a little bit more?
Carlita Vassar (03:49):
Yeah, that's an awesome opportunities. I am involved with helping develop the test material for the national council of state board of nursing. And ed entails a panel of nurses that are recruited, who meet their qualifications based on what subject matter they're focusing on at that period of time, I've asked off and on throughout the years, I'm not always able based on my crazy work schedule, but it is something that I actually enjoy doing, allows me to stay engaged in what's happening in the clinical world because I don't work directly in the hospital. And so it lets me have a little bit of direct insight what's happening clinically, nationally, because there are nurses from all around the country and even Guam that said on the panel for the national state board of nursing and in the future, also Canada as well, because they're doing a, some type of collaborative effort for the nursing licenses between the two countries. It also allows us an opportunity to be a voice in regards to them educational material that nurses are need when they're coming out of school. And so the board test is what directs the universities or the nursing schools on their curriculum. The end goal for anyone who's in school is to graduate and any nurse then goal is to pass their state boards and allows Missouri to have a voice and the test questions. And that's a wonderful opportunity.
Sara Moore (05:36):
Yeah. That is an amazing opportunity. And how you put it too to stay engaged, because there's so much that you do in your daily, daily job with both at-home care and all of the other things that you, that you do that you have passionate about. So I think that is critical to stay in caged of things that you, that you're interested in and, you know, keep that spirit alive. So there's
Carlita Vassar (05:58):
A running joke from nurses that will stand on grocery store lines and check out veins like, Oh, they have veins at that'd be easy stick or, you know, so I think once a nurse always a nurse or nursing email appoint, we're not trying to,
Sara Moore (06:15):
That's funny. I have another, another customer that says that nursing runs in her DNA. So I think that maybe nurses have that nurses have that in common. That's great. So not only all of this, that you're instrumental in grant writing and you have a long history of advocating for healthcare, and you mentioned that the other programs work to help your clients. Can you speak a bit more about the activity here and why you're so passionate about it?
Carlita Vassar (06:43):
I've been a nurse for over two? Well, I hate to say that loud over 25 years I was actually a, an eight prior to that health here has is a part of who I am and is important to me because I like many individuals have had family members that have dealt with different diseases or I've had had death in the families related to a disease process from heart disease to diabetes, to what I call controllable deaths, meaning and some scenarios with better healthcare or better awareness of their own healthcare needs. Them could have been maybe not avoided, but delayed from diabetics, not understanding how important it is to take their blood sugars, to diabetics, not doing their insulin the way that they should or following the diet that they are put on for the individuals who are told it's imperative, that they lose weight.
Carlita Vassar (07:53):
And then they go home and fried chicken and make my current cheese and everything wonderful on the Sunday are, and just the conversation and kitchen table conversations that people have all the time where you hear I'm going to die someday. Well, you don't have to make that day today. That is really what started. That was a catalyst for me to become more of an advocate with the community on how important their health is together is only together when there's more than one. And I had no desire to continue to lose people in my life or in my circle, or I attached to my circle through my friends and my family. So that's initially how it began while I was in nursing school. I had never heard of a parish nurse nurse before, and it was actually through the seminary that's next door to the university where I attended.
Carlita Vassar (09:00):
And I thought, well, that would be wonderful because I was really an advocate within the church, attend a very large, we call it a mega church, but it's a large church in St. Louis. And I became the church nurse. And there was heavily involved in what was just reaching out to the organization and collaborative partners of the church as well. So what really was the push was around towards the end of my time in school, I was a late college graduate, took me a long time because to actually graduate from college. So it was one that do a class here and do a couple semesters there, Katrina happen. And a lot of individuals came to St. Louis and our church became a big hub in regards to providing resources to the community. And so that was from that point on, it really struck me that I had the time, the talent, the treasure, because it was a part of my heart that I needed to be a part of the solution, at least in my own world, as much as I can be.
Carlita Vassar (10:11):
So I started becoming more of a vocal person and trying to talk to different legislators about how, how important it is to have healthcare education dollars. It wasn't, it's still something that you don't hear a lot of, but it's very important to spend the dollars on the education to the community, because we're going to have to spend the dollars later on taking care of the health. If we don't teach people how to do it, I had a radio show called returning to Eden keeping God's simple, healthy, and it was digitally erred towards the end. It actually became a WebSocket guest streamed because of the change of the radio station. But I had over 40,000 different listeners who really wanted to hear more about how to help healthier behaviors and make good decisions and live a positive lifestyle. They would stretch about 13, 14 state from the listening viewers.
Carlita Vassar (11:09):
And initially I did not even realize how many listeners he had. I just didn't want to know. I was so afraid that I was going to be the only person talking on the Mike to myself. And the best part of the conversation would be my daughter would be my introduction. She was tiny at that time, my daughter would be an election. You would hear her. Hi, this is Jan. And she was tiny, tiny. And then at the end of the day, she would talk about, you have a blessed afternoon, have a blessed Sunday morning because it was always Sunday morning. I would do it. And that thought that was the only reason people would listen. And that was it. Then I have towards the end when I actually was like, okay, then when I found out how many people were starting to really listen to the show, I realized that we want to know we want to do better. And anything that I can do as an individual to bring these issues to light, as well as bring the health issues to light, as well as provide the education I will do.
Sara Moore (12:14):
That's amazing. There's so many different avenues that you've pulled from your life and your experience. And you're always pushing to make sure that people have what they need, which is really admirable. And I think your story is going to really resonate with our listeners. And now what you're doing in this new era of COVID, which, you know, we've been, we we've chatted a little bit earlier and we can't believe that it's already been here a year, that this has been a part of our life, but now the good news is the vaccines are becoming more available and you and your team are actually participating in a drive by vaccine clinic. I guess my question to you about that is did you know from the beginning that you would like to be instrumental in administrating vaccines or what made you decide to be a participating agency and the distribution of COVID vaccines?
Carlita Vassar (13:00):
Well, Sara, I'll tell you the funniest thing. No, actually, initially we're been so busy and I, I didn't, it didn't no, but I will tell you it's been full circle prior to all of this. And before I even had a home care agency, part of my Bo strong volunteer focus had been on community based education, community education, community based programs. And I actually co-founded something called the, it was called at that time, the Robert Fulton medical reserve Corps and the exchanges changed his name to gateway St. Louis metal, coal reserve corpse, which is a community community-based program under the assistant secretary for preparedness and response. And their focus is on preparing the community for disaster preparedness and pandemic. So I had all of this knowledge from the years of being actively engaged in Peronists and disaster Rivera, preparedness, making sure you preparing your car. I have probably educated.
Carlita Vassar (14:14):
I would just off the top of my head say over 90,000 people because I've done it in mass stadiums as well. And just how important, like when the church of God and Christ has been in St. Louis, every single person that had to walk through that door had to hear for me, so made sure that they had materials about how to be safe. And so when I found out that it was an opportunity for vaccine, any organization who wanted to become a vaccinator, I hesitated just because I knew that it was going to be a great responsibility, but it is a much needed Avenue because it gives opportunity for flexible vaccination. There are mass vaccination in this state are doing wonderful across the country. What the resources that they have available are doing the best that they can do with the resources that haven't been available.
Carlita Vassar (15:14):
And from the local public health department to the federally qualified health centers. And they do great at doing vaccinations as well. But I knew that there will be individuals who will get left off to the side and not because of any one doing anything wrong. It's just transportation is an issue, or they're not going to want to go into a facility to do attend a mass vaccination program. So with the medical oversight, by the state medical director, they allowed agencies to become vaccinators. It's been an interesting learning curve because we originally were opening one clinic in St. Louis and thought, well, we'll open one in St. Louis. And then we will do mobile clinic pop-ups around the state. And it's actually turned out to be worth doing for vaccination clinics. And we will still do pop-ups around the state that home care covers 64 counties. We will hit all 64 counties, but we will definitely try to hit as many as we can with multiple vaccination clinics being run at the same time we wanted to do is to be a support of the state's COVID-19 vaccination program and being a resource as well, to what they're already doing.
Sara Moore (16:47):
And that's incredible. And it's exactly what is needed is anybody that can help that's able to help. And that's willing to help, like yourselves is one set forward to us having a, a new normal that we can be with one another. Again,
Carlita Vassar (17:01):
I will say that within Missouri, one of the hardest things right now is the vaccinations aren't trickling down throughout the state as swiftly as one with life. So our starting date has pushed back and pushed back off for the last few weeks. But it does allow us the ability to do more preparation. The need is great. We are one of a thousand then the state, and I firmly believe that the more individuals that become vaccinators have it better because it's all about saving lives.
Sara Moore (17:42):
Absolutely. Thanks for talking a little bit more about that. And I guess you could say that you've been preparing for the pandemic for quite a while and we are happy for that, or perhaps you didn't even know, but so it's people like you that help us get through it and we appreciate everything you're doing and for your participation in those clinics and everything that you do for healthcare and the healthcare community, and thank you for being a leader and a role model to our industry. And also, I appreciate, and thank you again for being a part of this home care community podcast episode.
New Speaker (18:20):
Oh, thank you for having me. My pleasure.
Thanks for joining us today on the home care heroes podcast, home care heroes is produced by Ankota, the software for the heroes of home care. You can listen to back episodes by visiting 4homecareheroes.com. That's the number four then the words home care heroes dot com.