Putting residents first earns Albert Lea nurse a DAISY Award

Joe Abrego, RN, found a second career at Good Samaritan Society

Putting residents first earns Albert Lea nurse a DAISY Award

In the short-term rehabilitation unit at Good Samaritan Society – Albert Lea in Minnesota, residents come and go often.

“I love to take care of people. Love to see them get better,” Joe Abrego, an RN at the Society, says.

Abrego’s mission: helping people heal while lending an ear.

“I love to sit down and talk to people. And they love it too,” says Abrego, constantly meeting new residents.

John Sorlie is recovering from a bad fall.

“Once I get the motor going, it’s tough to shut it off. I like to talk,” Sorlie jokes. “What would I say about Joe? He’s a first-class nurse.

“He’s an old school nurse, a real nurse. He knows his stuff. I base that on the fact I had five aunts that were nurses.”

An experienced caregiver now, Abrego found the nursing field after a local foundry shut down.

“Took some test, and it said you should be a nurse. I said, OK, we’ll try it,” Abrego says chuckling about the challenging career.

From med-surg to behavioral health, the 55-year-old has been at a bedside since 2006.

“He’s quite humorous,” Society administrator Kiona Rogers says. “He cares about the residents. He’s there for them. He has private conversations with them and lets them know that they come first.

“Here at Albert Lea, it just seems to be the model here.”

The DAISY Award

Abrego’s model is landing him recognition. He’s earning The DAISY Award for extraordinary nurses.

“He will put himself behind to give more time to the residents. And he does it every day with every resident,” says Jazmin Johnson, a Society clinical care leader and the person who nominated Abrego.

Society regional clinical services director Kelly Honstad adds, “He will go out of his way to do anything for anybody at any time.”

Extra time interacting, grabbing fresh water and snacks or just fixing a TV remote adds up to happy residents.

“I’ve always worked evenings. I can’t call maintenance and say, ‘Hey can you come fix this TV for me?’ It’s the little things that probably mean the most to them,” Abrego says regarding the people in his care.

Society clinical care leader Sharon Evenson points out, “Anytime I go to talk to a resident they’re always saying, ‘Well Joe told me this or Joe did this.’ It’s all about Joe. They love Joe.”

Count United States Marine Corps veteran Dale Struck in that mix.

“You just wanted to talk to an old jarhead,” Struck says chatting with Abrego.

“If I need something, he’s always here.”

With Vietnam veterans for uncles, Abrego honors service to country.

“The veterans really, really have a place in my heart. I really care deeply for them and appreciate their sacrifice,” Abrego says tearing up. “They gave up a lot. A lot of them are sick because of the time they spent in the military. If they hadn’t done that, it might be a whole different world.

“It’s meaningful to me and I hope it’s meaningful to them.”

‘Stay nurses for a long time’

Winning an award also means a lot, but more important are the residents and teammates to his left and right.

“He’s kind. He’s patient. He’ll sit and talk to a resident as long as they need him to. And then he’ll go back and get his work done,” says Kristin Bangert, a Society MDS nurse.

Abrego says, “It means a lot to me. But if this makes any sense, that day I got it, we celebrated a little bit. And then it’s like OK, I got to go to work.

“I love working here.”

A mentor, Abrego plans to share that love with his fellow nurses.

“I hope that I can share that knowledge and my skills with the younger nurses so that they stay nurses for a long time,” Abrego says.

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Posted In Awards & Recognition, Nursing and Nursing Support, Senior Services