41 Years and Going Strong
For 41 years, Johnnie Turner has been a kind voice and a helping hand for VNA patients. She began her career as a social worker with VNA Home Health Care and now serves VNA Hospice Care patients.
Johnnie started at VNA in January 1975, just after finishing graduate school at the University of Texas at Arlington. It all began simply enough – she saw that VNA was looking for social workers and answered the ad. Though she’d prepared through school for the profession, Johnnie says there’s a difference between studying and doing.
Johnnie started at VNA in home care. The first patient she ever saw with VNA was an elderly man living in South Dallas. “I remember being surprised at the need,” Johnnie said. “That there were still people living in conditions like that now.” All these years later, Johnnie says she still turns down that street to drive past that old house whenever she’s in the neighborhood.
In a society where people tend to change jobs every few years, what has kept Johnnie at VNA for more than four decades?
“Sometimes I did get the itch to do something different,” Johnnie says. “But I remember talking to my father about it, and he asked if I like what I’m doing, if it’s meaningful to me. The answer was always yes!
“As time went by, I would sometimes talk to nurses at other organizations, and I realized out of every place, VNA was where I wanted to be. They’d tell me about things going on in other places, things I didn’t want to be part of. With VNA, I could always be proud. I always knew VNA would follow the rules; VNA would do the ethical thing. I knew VNA would do the right thing every time, and to me that was very important.”
When Johnnie was first approached about moving to VNA Hospice Care, she didn’t want to do it. “I lost my mom early; I didn’t want to be around dying people,” Johnnie says. “But I went out to call on that first patient, and I saw the difference we could make. It felt so good to able to support them in what they were going through.”
From her first hospice patient, Johnnie saw the impact VNA Hospice Care could make. The patient was an elderly woman in East Dallas, and the first time Johnnie went to call on her, the woman took a very long time coming to the door. When the door opened, Johnnie saw why – the woman was crawling on the floor, too nervous to stand because she was afraid she would fall. As she got to know this new patient, Johnnie learned she used to be a model for a department store, that she was divorced and had a retired son.
“We were able to get her into community resources to help her,” Johnnie says. “We contacted her son, and he became more involved. We were able to make a huge difference in her life. That’s what VNA does, the concern we have for people, what we can do for them. All the little ways we can support our patients and our community.”
As a social worker, Johnnie handles an average of about 30 cases at a time, and has no plans to slow down anytime soon. Away from work, she and her husband like to travel – particularly to visit one of their sons who lives near San Francisco. Johnnie loves to read and has recently begun to make time to explore her talent for cooking.
But it’s her ability to care so deeply for others that has defined her work with VNA. And every morning she puts on her badge and goes out to provide the compassionate service that has made her such a valuable member of the VNA family for 41 years.
“I’m very proud to work with VNA,” Johnnie says. “Everyone knows who VNA is, and I know we’re the best. I’m proud of everything VNA does and I’m proud to wear that badge.”
We’re proud she does too.