The Chaos Coordinator

By Nagihan Aydin 

Lynn Sanford has a plaque on her desk that says, “chaos coordinator,” a fitting title for her role

as an assistant director of nursing. When her colleagues are facing a problem, they count on her to fix it. From helping to heal sick patients to coordinating family visits during a global pandemic, Sanford tackles a lot of problems every day. And she does it well; last year, she was awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal, a prestigious award that honors distinguished nurses worldwide.  

“Corridor” by John Blower

But if you’d asked Sanford, forty-three, where she saw her career taking her a few decades ago, she never would have imagined herself in a nursing home, let alone running one. When she packed her bags and headed to New York for college, she had her sights set on a city skyscraper, working for a top marketing firm.  

She enrolled in four years of marketing courses, engaging herself into the industry and the study of economics; but life had other plans. She worked at a fitness studio as an aerobics instructor, conducted research studies in shopping malls in New York, moved to Washington State and handled scheduling for a window company, got married and gave birth to her daughter, Jayden.  

After settling into life as a stay-at-home mom for a few years, caring for her daughter Jayden and playing an active role in her life as she started school, inspiration struck one fateful afternoon when Sanford was chatting with her mother-in-law. After babysitting Jayden one afternoon, Sanford’s mother-in-law started chatting about her career as an APRN and told Sanford she thought she’d be great at it ; she saw how caring and attentive she was as a mother and knew she could offer that same care to patients in need.  

Not long after, Sanford was back on a college campus, surrounded by stacks of textbooks in between dance classes and sports games for her daughter. Despite juggling motherhood, work and a return to education, Sanford earned a 3.9 GPA at Capital Community College in Hartford and worked tirelessly to maintain her high marks for four years. After many long nights in the library, she graduated with a degree in nursing in 2015 and has been working as a nurse ever since.  

Her first role in the healthcare field led her to the University of Connecticut Hospital where she worked as an occupational health nurse, working to promote and restore health in the workplace and help workers heal from injuries sustained on the job. She enjoyed helping workers but wanted to broaden her horizons.   

Soon she added even more to her hectic schedule, landing a second job at Village Green of Bristol, a nursing and rehabilitation center for seniors where she worked directly with elderly patients and their families. She knew as soon as she started that this was where she was meant to be.  

“I wish I had known I was meant to be a nurse after high school and not gone into marketing, I see it as a waste of five years of my life, but there is a reason for everything,” said Sanford.  

Even though she had a later start to her career, she’s had no shortage of success.  

Looking back, she credits her family for all she’s been able to accomplish. Her parents, she said, supported whatever career path; or several career paths; she wanted to take. Her husband has been endlessly supportive. And her mother-in-law was the one who inspired it all with her own career as a nurse.  

More than five years after graduating, Sanford has steadily climbed the ladder at Village Green. As a registered nurse and assistant nursing director, she oversees a team of nurses at the nursing and rehabilitation center and specializes in the areas of wound treatment and infection control.  

In a typical year, heading infection control in a nursing home is no easy feat, but since March 2020, it’s been a constant uphill climb. Nursing homes across the country have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, making a difficult, busy job that much harder. In addition to working hard to stop the spread of the deadly virus, Sanford has also been in charge of making sure all of her staff members are safe and equipped with proper Personal Protective Equipment and dealt with nation-wide shortages of such supplies at the start of the pandemic.  

She’s also seen her patients struggle with the loss of in-person visitation from family members and learned new technology, like FaceTime and Zoom, to keep in touch with family members. Residents have had socially distant visits with family and friends through screens and windows, and staff have had to double down on their efforts to keep everyone’s spirits up.  

Sanford also works to keep nurses engaged and learning, leading the staff education department at the nursing home. Her own return to education in the healthcare field inspires her to keep learning herself and now, to teach others and instill in them a love of lifelong learning.  

Despite the challenges of working in healthcare, especially during a pandemic, Sanford considers herself “resilient, adaptable and compassionate,” she said. And given the chance, she wouldn’t change a thing about her life or her career.  

“I’m very content right now and I don’t want anything to change,” she said.  

She is content to continue coordinating all the chaos that comes her way.  

Course: ENG 101, Fall 2021

Assignment: Profile

Instructor: Jeanne Humphrey

Instructor comments:

“The Chaos Coordinator” was written in response to an assignment to interview an individual who had inspired or influence to the writer, and to compose a profile based on that interview. I made profile suggestions such as; teachers, co-workers, youth workers, coaches, neighborhood activists, clergy, and so on. Interviews with family members were discouraged, as large part of this assignment is risk-taking. Students developed their own questions based on what they wanted to know about the interviewee, and submitted those for approval prior to the interview.

What makes this a successful profile? First of all, Nagi chose an excellent title which points the reader to the central focus of the topic, the subject’s innate ability to bring order out of chaos. In the opening paragraph she introduces her subject, and in subsequent paragraphs, explains exactly how the subject arrived in her position.

Although the writer is “part” of this essay, she keeps the focus strictly on the subject of her profile, letting the reader get to know what kind of person she is writing about.

The essay is very well edited, there are no wasted words or deviations from the topic.

Outstanding throughout the work is the immediacy of her writing, and the clear examples she provides, especially, quotes from the subject herself that highlight her career. The writer makes it clear why her mentor has inspired, not only her, but the subject’s patients and colleagues, as well. Finally, the conclusion brings the reader back to the original title.

Photo Credit: “Corridor” by John Blower (Creative Commons)

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