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Make Your Mark: Nursing Assistant Teresa Smith, a light in the darkness

Teresa-Smith_blog-teaser-(2).pngThe mission of Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS), “to honor God by enriching the lives and touching the hearts of older adults,” is fulfilled when the actions of our employees demonstrate our stated values. In doing so, they “make their mark” upon those we serve. In our continuing series, “Make your Mark,” we introduce you to PHS employees who are living out these values.

When night falls, Teresa Smith is awake and making her mark as a nursing assistant at GracePointe Crossing in Cambridge, MN. There residents experience her caring presence like a soft, comforting glow in the night. Across 25 years of service, Teresa demonstrates the PHS value of Operational Integrity, which says, “I am a guest in the homes of those I serve.”

It turns out the night shift — while the rest of the world sleeps — is an essential time to practice being a guest. Teresa nourishes relationships through tender care and soft conversation when residents request assistance and may benefit from a little reassurance.

Kathy Howard, a nursing assistant who has worked the night shift alongside Teresa for 25 years, says, “Residents just love Teresa. She has a personality that wins them over.”

Kathy recalls, “A resident once explained it to me like this: ‘You, on the night shift, are here to just take care of us. You’re not worried about taking us to meals, the beauty shop, doctor appointments or activities. You’re just here for us at night.’”

GracePointe Crossing exterior at nightTeresa cherishes the unique opportunities the midnight hours bring to connect. She explains, “I love interacting with the residents. They warm up to you and so they share, and I love listening to their stories.”

For example, she explains, “I’ll see a picture on their dresser, so I say something like, ‘Is that a daughter or another family member?’ A lot of times that will lead into a story or a memory of somebody.” Or, in another case, she recalls one resident who has an owl collection on her vanity. “So she tells me where each owl came from, who gave it to her and what it means to her,” she says, adding, “Someday I’d love to just come in and sit and look at each and every one of them.”

Karina Heath, who is a Clinical Coordinator, says Teresa is “dedicated and has a kind heart” — qualities that endear her to residents and contribute to an atmosphere of hospitality.

Duane Larson, Senior Vice President of Operations, said, “I think there’s no replacement for a kind-hearted caregiver. That’s what keeps people here and the basis for 50% of our referrals. We have nice buildings, but people stay for the relationships.”

Kim Scobbie, an RN and Education Specialist, praises our caregivers on the night shift, calling them “the joy dispensers in the darkness.” Regarding Teresa’s 25-year service, she adds, “Anyone who has had this role for a season — let alone a quarter century — is truly a selfless servant.”

Teresa admits, “One of my downfalls is becoming attached to the residents after getting to know them very well.”  Yet she continues to give from her heart night after night — year after year, because of her empathy. She says, “I’m happy for them, you know. Some of them are waiting to go [to their eternal] home and if I can make the rest of their life here on Earth as great as possible, then my job is complete.”

We’re honored by Teresa and all PHS employees who enrich the lives and touch the hearts of our residents – during all hours of the day or night, year by year.

Do you know someone looking for more purpose in their work? Share the good news and the many opportunities to make a mark at

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