Pam Shilts


“I’ve been a nurse for a long time, and I’ve been assisting my teams side-by-side and I’m exhausted at the end of most days and seeing fatigue from all team members, not just nurses. I worry that we will lose some nurses because they will feel they no longer can give anything else for a while.”

Montrose, Colorado - February 2021

My name is Pam Shilts and I am a Regional Clinical Consultant for Volunteers of America’s Valley Manor facility, a senior living facility that includes long-term care, short-term rehabilitation, memory support and short-term respite care. I started here as my first job in 1979 as a nursing assistant. After high school, I earned an LPN degree. Then, I married a sailor and headed to the east coast. I spent a fair amount of time living and working in Florida during the 1980s. While I was in school for my RN, I worked at Humana Hospital. During this time, I saw many AIDS patients as the state of Florida offered experimental medications and chemotherapy. I received the Nurse of the Year award in 1991 from Humana Hospital group for the work I did in creating, teaching and managing vital programs for HIV + and AIDS patients.

After moving back to the Western Slope, I went back to work at Valley Manor where I have managed home healthcare and been the Director of Nursing. The current training I oversee includes a nursing assistant program, resident care assistant program, which incorporates the feeding assistant and patient care assistant, personal care assistant, CPI (crisis prevention intervention), and CPR/first aid.

My top priority is addressing the needs of our residents and staff holistically—physical, emotional and spiritual. God gave me a talent in seeing the best in those around me and an ability to identify personal strengths. Identifying strengths allows leaders to find the best position for staff to achieve long-term success. And if staff are using their strengths, it results in them feeling good about their role and overall contribution to the mission of the organization.

I feel honored that I have twice been nominated for the Nightingale Award—an award that recognizes excellence in human caring by Colorado registered nurses.

During the Covid-19 crisis, I have been on the frontlines at two Volunteers of America locations—Westchester and Laurel Manor. I am exhausted. We started into Covid last March and we still have cases. I’ve been a nurse for a long time and I’ve been assisting my teams side-by-side and I’m exhausted at the end of most days and seeing fatigue from all team members, not just nurses. I worry that we’ll lose some nurses because they’ll feel they can no longer give anything else for a while.

Everyone that was working with us at the time from our receptionists to housekeeping workers to the people running our business office, have been on the frontlines. When employees couldn’t come in, we all pitched in to get the work done. The pandemic has definitely changed how everyone does his/her job. All nurses have had to dig in and do whatever it takes to meet the residents’ direct care needs and facility staff have had to step up and do tasks to assist the nurses.

I saw many residents go from joking with staff to having Covid signs and symptoms to positive PCR and resident declining rapidly and most with respiratory issues. Loss of residents tears at the staff and I often cried in my car driving home or to a hotel after my shift.

I’m a widow but my 86 year-old mother lives next door and our homes are connected by a sunroom. I have been very cautious about not carrying the virus home. I now have both vaccinations and mom has just received her second. I have not seen any grandchildren this year. We do Zoom and face time but no hugs and kisses. We love to travel and I am so hopeful that mom and I can take a trip soon.

To get through the stress, I have stayed laser focused and made sure that I took mental breaks and that all the employees took breaks. It’s so important in maintaining mental health. Through all of this though I still feel privileged to be able to do this work, and get paid to do it.