Brenda Baker does a daily lap around the Jewel House campus on Monday with resident Evelyn Breeding. Breeding said she didn’t know if she would be able to walk again after her leg injury, but attributed the work and time invested by Baker for her successful recovery. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Brenda Baker does a daily lap around the Jewel House campus on Monday with resident Evelyn Breeding. Breeding said she didn’t know if she would be able to walk again after her leg injury, but attributed the work and time invested by Baker for her successful recovery. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Sometimes people spend years trying to find a career that fits their skills, while others find something more meaningful than just a job without trying.

Brenda Baker began working in a nursing facility when she was 18. In the nearly three decades since then, she's never felt the need - or desire - to find another area of work.

"I guess it was my calling," she said.

Even though she had never worked in healthcare before taking her first job in a nursing facility, she just felt at home while serving her residents. Those residents often become much like an extended family for her.

"I just really like taking care of my residents," she said.

When Baker first began working in nursing facilities, no medical training was needed, she said. After the first few years on the job, new mandates and regulations came about for nursing facility workers. Everyone needed to receive training as a Certified Nursing Aide.

Without a second thought, Baker signed up for the training.

She continues to keep her certification current with required online classes each year, yet she's never considered expanding her certification to become a registered nurse. Her work as a CNA at the Jewel House in Madison - where she's worked for the last eight years - keeps her busy enough.

"Some days are more hectic (than others)," she said.

Most days are similar for her as she begins her morning by helping residents get ready for the day. She might help them to the dining area for breakfast or to get ready for visitors throughout the day. Other times, she might help a resident with laundry or cleaning their living area.

"There's a lot to do in a day's time," she said.

Baker also takes some time to just stop in to make sure everything is going well for the day or visit with residents and their families for a while.

Residents at the Jewel House are much more talkative and alert than the nursing home residents she helped for 21 years before moving into a position at the assisted living center, Baker said, and she enjoys the daily interaction with the residents.

"They can tell you stories from their childhood," she said.

Residents tell her of their careers as schoolteachers, nurses or soldiers, and Baker doesn't know what she might learn when stopping in to for a check through the day. A quick check might turn into a longer visit just for a visit and to chat.

Other times, Baker's visits might provide the gentle encouragement to patients who are on the path to recovery after sickness or health issues.

She had been told that one resident, Evelyn Breeding, might never walk again after a leg injury.

Within a few months, Breeding was walking - and doing the two-step - without the support or help of anyone else thanks to Baker's encouragement.

"You just have to encourage them to go on," she said, even if that means encouraging them to just try a little harder than they want to.

And Baker takes that kind of care with each and every one of the residents she sees.

"My residents brag on me daily," she said. "A lot of residents say I go above and beyond."

Yet Baker doesn't see that she does anything more than any other CNA would do. She just cares for her residents like she would want her own family to be looked after.

"I would want someone to take care of my family that way," she said.