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His nursing education started at age 49; now Alan Coyle says he’s not retiring until his legs give out.

Alan Coyle is a registered nurse and is one of the nurses in charge of caring for the 40 or so residents of Virginia Gay Nursing and Rehab. He works with a team caring for residents 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  It’s a team that medicare.gov and independent surveys rate as one of Iowa’s highest quality long-term care facilities.

“I love what I do,” says Alan, “and I get tremendous satisfaction from my job. I do everything I can to be a person caring for others, not just a medical staff member dispensing pills and providing treatment. One of the ways I show respect for our residents is to ask them if they’re ready for their medications, or any other activities they need to do. If they aren’t ready, then they aren’t ready, and I’ll come back later to ask them again. I believe in giving them as much control as possible and all the respect I would want if I were a resident.”

*If you are interested in careers and growing your skills as a nurse at Virginia Gay Hospital, visit www.NursingAtVirginiaGayHospital.com

Alan is one of a growing number of men who are finding a new career in nursing.

“About ten years ago only 2% of nurses were men,”  explains Alan. “Now it’s about 10%, and the numbers are growing. It’s a profession with a good wage, and nurses are in high demand everywhere*. When I went through school in 2014 and 2015, about two-thirds of the students were between the ages of 18 and 24, and the majority of them were women, but the other third were older students like me, and I see that as a growing trend.”

Alan’s transition from building maintenance to being an RN began at Kirkwood Community College where he received his CNA training. Shortly after becoming a CNA, he began working at Virginia Gay. In 2014, he began studying for his LPN at Kirkwood but transferred to Hawkeye Community College where he felt that he’d found a better fit. He completed work to receive his RN degree in 2015.

When talking about being a nurse, Alan says, “If you’re looking for a nine-to-five job where you can fit your work around your life, this isn’t it. Nursing is a profession for people who are all-in. A nurse needs to be detail-oriented and to be able to work as part of a team. It’s a physically demanding job helping patients or residents who are a little larger than in the past and who may have become a lot less mobile than they once were. You will spend most of your day on your feet, and the work can be fast-paced.”


“Good teamwork skills are essential today because providing health care is like being part of a racing team. The crew chief manages the process, everyone has their job, and if everyone doesn’t do their job well while working together, everything falls apart.”

Alan credits the team for the awards and rankings that Virginia Gay Nursing and Rehab has achieved. “It starts on the floor where we have a very dedicated staff of CNA’s and others. Our management staff

is proud of our ranking and reviews, but they know those results are from providing our residents with the best possible experience. It’s my feeling that everyone at Virginia Gay Hospital is committed to providing long-term care for the community.”

“What I’m sharing isn’t just my opinion,” says Alan. “The nursing shortage means we have to rely more on contract nurses than we would like. What I hear from them over and over again is that our facility is heads and shoulders above many places they’ve worked. Nursing and Rehab’s commitment to excellence starts with the CEO, Mike Riege. It includes our physicians, the management staff, and it shows all the way through to our dietary and environmental services teams. Many long-term care facilities only want private-pay residents, but Virginia Gay Nursing and Rehab is open to everyone, regardless of how their care is paid for, and everyone receives the same level of care.”

While Alan gives all the credit for great care to others, he certainly plays an important part as well. His commitment and dedication are readily apparent whenever he talks about the dignity and respect residents deserve.

“The transition from home to a residential care facility is a difficult one for almost all residents,” says Alan, “and it can be for their loved ones as well. Helping them be as comfortable as they can be is a huge part of our responsibility. The desire of wanting to be in their own home never completely goes away, so I strive to make dealing with those feelings a little easier. I do that by relating to them as I would anyone else. I ask them about what they’ve done in the past – about the things they enjoyed and what made their lives worthwhile. I try to help those memories remain alive because I think they enjoy remembering those times and because sharing those experiences with someone eager to listen brightens their mood. I believe that’s how you build bonds created of trust and respect, and that job is just as important as my job of providing medical care.”

(This article is part of Virginia Gay Hospital’s bi-annual publication, “Thrive” Fall/Winter 2018 issue. An online version of the entire publication can be found at https://myvgh.org/thrive/)


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