Connie Brien’s career in nursing spans over 20 years and has given her opportunities to use her gifts in a wide variety of settings. She’s worked in hospitals, clinics, camps, facilities, family homes, schools, but no matter where she’s worked, she’s always come back to her first love: working with children.
“Wherever my nursing career has taken me, I always returned to pediatrics,” Connie says. “And now I get to work at Matthew’s House, such an amazing home, filled with laughter and love.”
Matthew’s House supports families by providing quality care in a homelike environment to children with complex care needs. Connie has been involved here since before the home opened its doors in November, 2013, working together with manager, Wendy Toohey in pre-planning, interviewing families and training staff.
“When we first opened and Wendy and I started interviewing families, we came to realize just how needed this house is,” she remembers. “Almost every interview left us in tears; so many families needed so much help. Many fall through the cracks in the system.”
Children who visit Matthew’s House are unique in that the care they require is beyond what a regular babysitter or other family member can provide. Parents become the primary caregivers and since their children need 24/7 care, it means they rarely get a break. Together with the stress that often accompanies the care of a child with disabilities, parents are often left stretched and exhausted.
“The common thread we kept hearing from parents was ‘my spouse and I have never been on a date since having our child’ or ‘I would really like to have a good night’s sleep’ – that was said by the parent of a 15 year old child. All the things that most of us take for granted.” Connie Brien, nurse
Bringing their children to Matthew’s House means that these parents get the rest they deserve. They can go on a date night, do something meaningful with their other children, or get an uninterrupted night’s sleep. Part of what gives parents peace of mind is that they have the opportunity to spend the first night at Matthew’s House with their child. Care plans are made together with the parent and are tailored to the family’s needs and desires. The overnight stay gives parents a chance to teach the staff about their child.
Connie has nothing but respect and admiration for these parents.
“They deserve respect, patience and most of all, support,” she says. “I love being able to put a parent’s mind at rest, knowing that their child will be well looked after.”
Training and supporting staff so that they can provide expert, loving care is a highlight of Connie’s work. She is proud of the staff at Matthew’s House and the way they are able to care for children.
“I feel so blessed to work in a home like this,” she says,” to be part of something so rewarding. Every time a child smiles at me or giggles at my jokes just fills my heart with love.”
One of the challenges that Connie sometimes feels keenly is when they cannot support everyone whenever they need it. She is grateful for a dedicated staff team and says that there are opportunities for others looking for meaningful work in a caring and rewarding environment.
“We want to continue to facilitate a break for these parents and families and give them a chance to be strong again,” she says