Step inside Gail Richner’s business and you might as well be in your own home. Comfortable chairs, bright flowers and family photos decorate a cozy and inviting living space at Excellent Care II, a private adult care home in Virginia Beach owned by the Tidewater Community College graduate.

Richner completed her nurse-aide training at TCC in 2005, passed the state exam for certification and had a job prior to graduating at a local long term care facility.

“I love to take care of people,” Richner said. “I love to make their lives better. I like to make sure they have a good quality of life.”

After raising her children, Richner attended TCC at the suggestion of a 93-year-old friend. Richner credits Bernice Baxter, director for nurse-aide training, for helping her through the 120 hours of largely hands-on instruction, which includes 18 hours in a clinical setting.

Rosalind Oliver with TCC alumna Gail Richner“Being in your 50s and going back to college is hard,” she said. “Bernice was my rock, my inspiration. I cannot sing Bernice Baxter’s praises high enough.”

After working in larger facilities, home health and hospice, Richner realized she preferred a more personal approach and started her own business two years ago.

“When you are working on a hall with 50 people and you’re supposed to have four CNAs and you have two, you have 25 patients,” she said. “You can’t give your all. You want to give your all, but you have one nurse on duty. I thought, ‘There’s got to be another way.’”

Richner maintains a high standard of living for each of her patients, cooking their favorite meals, celebrating holidays and inviting extended family to visit anytime. Devotionals, exercise and even karaoke are part of weekly activities.

“We are family,” said Richner, who has nighttime staff on duty and nurses make regular visits. “I take care of them and we have a wonderful relationship.”

As a member of PAC Homes Association, Richner is a believer that private homes are the future of long-term care and will make the job market more plentiful for certified nurse aides.

“If you’re going into this business, you need to know how to be compassionate,” she said. “CNAs are the first line of defense. We’re the ones who know where they hurt, when they fell, what has happened the night before, who has been in to upset them. It’s such an important job that I’m passionate about, and TCC laid my foundation for it.”
 

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