A Look Inside Staffing a Nursing Home and International Nurses

An interview with Marissa Varney of St. Marys d'Youville Pavilion

The following is a transcript from an episode of The Workforce Solution, an interview series about the most pressing topics in healthcare staffing and workforce management.

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Marissa Varney, Assistant Administrator at St. Marys d'Youville Pavilion located in Greene, Maine, is the youngest of twelve children.

Originally from the Philippines, she became passionate about geriatric care as a result of the respect shown to the elderly within her culture.

Marissa talked to us recently about the unique challenges of working in a nursing home during COVID and what changes they made to help both patients and providers.

She spoke in an interview with Health Carousel, which provides world-class healthcare staffing and workforce solutions designed to improve lives and make healthcare work better.


My background, I'm from the Philippines originally. I came here when I was 17 years old. And I just love what the opportunity that it can give you in this country. I think that's the reason a lot of people want to come to the United States. I love the healthcare because of my roots.

The Filipinos. takes care of their elderly and no, no long term care facility in that country. We will take care of your elders and that is one of the reasons I chose long term care or post acute care. Because of that because of the roots that I have. I'm very passionate about geriatric. I know one thing about nursing, you can choose any fields of nursing that you want. You can either go OB, OBGYN, pediatrics, but I chose geriatrics because of my upbringing and Elder being our matriarch and patriarch and that is the reason I chose long term care.

I'm number 12 of 12 children. We have five siblings living; the rest have gone to heaven. I met my husband Richard in the Philippines. He was in the military. We got married. I was 17, almost 18 and we have been married for 45 years.

I work for St. Mary's d'Youville pavilion, which is affiliated or owned by covenant health system. And covenant has nine post acute care facilities.

I love the missions that they have. It's about the patients first. And I think in healthcare, that is the most important thing is putting the patient first.

I have been in this facility for 17 years working in different capacity. Now that I am the director of Nursing Assistant Administrator. Like I said, it's the mission, what gets me excited to go to work every day is my team. I have the best team in the world because I'm surrounded with strong leaders that oversee, monitor and assess their patients staff every day,


One of the more difficult aspects of Marissa’s job, and of all healthcare staff within geriatrics, has been to witness the physical separation between residents and their loved ones. At St. Mary’s, the staff has done everything they can think of to keep their residents safely connected with their families and friends during the pandemic.


The Zoom conferences with family had been one of the best things that we had implemented here.

So, they had Zoom meeting. They do FaceTime birthdays; [it] used to be family, we'd have come in and have their, you know, their family members bring in cakes and balloons. Now, they do Zoom or they will do window visit the residents. The resident is inside the family or outside, they the family will set you talk with them by you know with windows or using their cell phones. We'll give our residents a cell phone, cell phone with their family. That's how that's they can hear or talk to each other.

But you have a window in between because they can’t come into the building when that is but that is good for the residents and the family at least they can see in person how their loved one is doing.


Marissa hopes that things will open soon, and that visitors like friends and family members will be allowed back in d'Youville Pavilion soon.


The cases per 10,000 in our Androscoggin County where d'Youville Pavilion is located is very high. And because of that, we have to lock down. We can still do window visits. We can still have family talk to our patients, but not inside the building. We, what we are hoping for because of the vaccination, we have vaccinated our residents. We just completed the second dose of the booster, which is Pfizer. And hopefully with that we will get guidance from the CDC on when we can open.


Nearly every Health Carousel customer we’ve spoken to has mentioned some kind of challenge within staffing. The challenges vary, and for d'Youville Pavilion this challenge has been keeping up the rising costs due to high demand.


We already have challenges in our building because of the staffing piece. And with COVID, it made it more where it became financial to others, you know, other people made it to how it's going to make them make more money, or go somewhere else that offers more money.

Because of that, because of financial, other nursing homes, I will call it the mom and pop nursing homes, did not make it. They were struggling to the point that they had to close. And so what happened to those residents that lived there.

In our area. We have had other facilities that had so much -- several outbreaks, COVID outbreaks in their facility, and they're struggling, they're begging, they're asking for help. But other facilities really could not help them because they are on the same boat of staffing challenges. A lot of challenges, not just in a small mom and pop nursing home or post acute but it also brought challenges in other big companies.

I work with many organizations or agencies that are providing staffing for us, and I had met with them over the phone and asked them: What can St. Marys d'Youville Pavilion do to entice nursing assistants or nurses to come to our building?

And they said they have the staff that are coming here, or have been here, doesn't have any complaints. They were treated like family, they were treated like our own, like our own employees, but it came to more of the wage. They wanted more money and we're paying good money, but they wanted more money.

We had to come up with other ideas on OK, so what if an agency staff come to us and we can block book them? You know, come to join us not as our own employee, but an agency and give them the schedule that we need and maybe we can offer so much but not a whole lot, just something that we can do to help us with staffing.

So we're come we're trying to work with them and ask them on how we can at least work 50/50 on how to help our building, because we can't offer so much financial, because we can't afford that either.


Despite the challenges around staffing and the heartbreaking physical distance that the pandemic has forced on the residents of d'Youville Pavilion, Marissa is proud of her team and her organization for successfully keeping COVID-19 away from their facility and for coming together as a team.


The pandemic taught me that there are a lot of people there that care, truly care, about their patients. I will go by our staff. We asked them to take care of themselves. We asked them to watch what they do when they're off work because whatever they do outside could affect our building, especially our residents.

So it taught me that people really truly care about their patients. And there's the other side too, what I'm hearing from the social media, from what you're seeing: It taught me that some people got divided because of this pandemic. And I'm glad that it did not hit this building, that it made this building stronger. It made the building work better, and it made the building to really connect and put the patient at the center of it.

The one thing that I could tell, tell myself after all of this is over is that the nurse managers that I have in this building have come together so strongly; that it's amazing how they work together to make sure that the residents are always at the center of whatever it is that we're doing. That I could leave work, knowing whoever is on duty that night or that day will take care of the resident first. And I know they were good. I know we have good leadership in this building. But it really shown on this pandemic

Either, you come together, or it’ll break you apart. But we pulled together.

This episode of The Workforce Solution has been an interview with Marissa Varney from St. Marys d'Youville Pavilion.

The Workforce Solution is a storytelling series brought to you by Health Carousel,  a world-class healthcare staffing and workforce solutions company designed to improve lives and make healthcare work better.