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Published: Monday, 10/10/2005

CareLink Nursing fills short-term staff needs

BY MARY-BETH McLAUGHLIN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Jim Brockman, one of about 150 employees of CareLink Nursing Services, helps Matthew Reynolds off the bus. Jim Brockman, one of about 150 employees of CareLink Nursing Services, helps Matthew Reynolds off the bus.
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A registered nurse by training and an entrepreneur at heart, Maureen Kenney recognized almost two decades ago there was a need at hospitals and doctors' offices for temporary help.

A nursing shortage led Ms. Kenney to start ESSN in 1988, which essentially has a roster of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and health-care aides who can be sent at a moment's notice into hospitals, doctors' offices, and other locations to cover missed shifts because of illness or longer stints because of vacations and maternity leaves.

The company, Ms. Kenney said, "gives people the flexibility to say yes or no, so they can plan their lives, and we pay a little bit more."

The service was so successful that she created a spinoff operation, CareLink Nursing Services, 18 months ago that sends nurses and home health aides into patients' residences. Today, she has 150 employees and expects to have revenues this year of $2.5 million, with 60 percent coming from ESSN.

"This past year has been huge growth for both," she said.

CareLink offers companions, home health aides, and nurses for periods of two hours a week up to around-the-clock care.

Staffers travel a 45-mile radius from Toledo and initial visits are made to determine a person's needs, Ms. Kenney said. Then a care plan is established.

Care can range from full-nursing for patients discharged from hospitals to bathing, dressing, and cooking by home health aides, she said.

Staff members have received specialized training to help patients of Alzheimers, dementia, and Parkinson's, and, on a monthly basis, receive in-service education.

"We know that it's tough to ask strangers into your home, so we put a lot of money into upfront checks, such as checking references, fingerprinting, drug screening, and making sure they're bonded and insured," Ms. Kenney said.

Tina Taylor, director of nurs-ing, said because the company has a contract with Medicaid, it was audited to make sure it was following proper procedures. "We passed without any dings," she said.

When Linda Baker was trying to find 24-hour in-home health care for Lucille Born, her longtime neighbor, she was in tears after the first few phone calls. She was told she'd have to hire several agencies to handle all the tasks.

But then she called CareLink and spent an hour and a half on the phone with Ms. Taylor.

"She just absolutely made me so comfortable and so confident in this service that they had and I only had to hire one agency," Mrs. Baker said.

She said Miss Born, who is almost 80, was "a totally independent woman and it was very hard to have all of these people into her home.

"But all of the aides were very knowledgeable of the position they were hired for and they were all patient and loving and kind," she said.

Mrs. Baker said she was impressed that when she called for a nurse, a registered nurse would be sent out immediately, even when she called that morning for later in the day.

That attention to nursing detail comes easily to Ms. Kenney, who holds a master's degree in nursing from the University of Michigan.

She said she welcomes the competition from similar staffing companies, but said hers is the only locally owned company owned by a nurse.

Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at: mmclaughlin@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.



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