Lawson named TH& ‘CNA Shining Star’

Published 8:50 pm Friday, July 31, 2009

Mary Lawson didn’t expect any recognition for doing her job – a job that she has done for 28 years.

So, she was more than surprised when she was named the Troy Health & Rehabilitation Center’s 2009 Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Shining Star.

“I didn’t even know there was anything like that,” the Troy native said, with a broad smile. “But it’s nice to know that people care about you and think that what you are doing is making a difference. Every day, I just pray and do the best I can.”

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The CNA Shining Star recognition program is in its infancy but Sylvia Bowers, director of the sponsoring South Central Alabama Development Commission Area Agency on Aging, said the first year validated the program.

All eight nursing homes in the area participated and seven were represented by their Shining Star and a facility administrator at the reception honoring the Stars July 28 at the agency’s office in Montgomery.

“This is the first time the agency has sponsored this event,” Bowers said. “What we are doing is working with nursing homes to identify those CNAs within the nursing homes who are giving outstanding, quality care to the residents. The CNAs are the ones who are providing hands on, day-to-day care. The manner in which they are providing this care is so important in maintaining the dignity of the individuals who live there.”

Bowers said each facility was asked to identify an individual who exemplified the characteristics of delivering outstanding care to the residents. Each facility came up with its own criteria.

Merri Burk, TH&R assistant director of nursing, said members of the administrative staff and unit managers were involved in the selection of the TH&R Shining Star.

“Mary Lawson was a good choice because we could fill a whole page with her outstanding qualities,” she said. “Mary is a most caring and compassionate person. She has a sweet smile, and she smiles all the time. She is dedicated and she loves the residents and they love her. She is exceptional, and we certainly want to congratulate her.”

Lawson accepted the congratulations of her peers with great humility, but she couldn’t hold back the tears when she was given an opportunity to speak at the reception for the CNA Shining Stars in Montgomery on Tuesday.

“I teared up and couldn’t say anything much,” she said. “My daughter was there with me and Merri Burk. It was just so nice and meant so much that I couldn’t help but cry.”

When Lawson walked into the Troy nursing home 28 years ago, she could never have imagined a day like that.

“I came out here to the nursing home because I was looking for a fulltime job,” she said. “I’d always wanted to help people. But I’d never been around people that couldn’t do for themselves. I was scared at first, and a lot of times I went home thinking that I wouldn’t go back. But I had to have a job. So I just prayed and did the best I could.”

It was about a year before Lawson was comfortable in her new job. She had fallen in love with the residents and every day she had an opportunity to help others and make the day better and brighter for many.

“For a time, my father was a resident here and everybody was so good and kind to him,” Lawson said. “I could see him every day and that was an added blessing.”

Lawson offers encouragement to new members of the staff.

“Some of them are scared just like I was,” she said. “But I tell them that I had a lot of learning to do and to just pray and do the best they can. I tell them, too, that sometimes you feel like what you do doesn’t matter, but it does. I know that it really does.”