Kay Burlew: Her Heart is in her Work
Kay Burlew has been the Medical Recovery Manager for The Center for Respite Care for the past six years. Previously, she spent 17 years in children’s services in Northern Kentucky.
Kay BurlewKay’s heart and passion are in her work, as evidenced by her description of her “day” at the Center: “For me it usually starts with getting a report from the people who have worked over the weekend and/or evening. We begin problem solving any issues and creating a plan for both medical and case management needs. We address any immediate concerns and review the census for potential issues.” Sometimes, she says, she walks on the unit, and it is a big “ruckus” and her day changes completely. Though her work is generally challenging and requires quick thinking as the health and welfare of people is close at hand, she expresses gratitude for the work that she performs. “The best part of my job is when the clients recognize that they are making their own difference – that they can start being a part of their own solution, and not a part of their own problem. I have a client who will be starting online school tomorrow. I have a couple of people who are managing their (future) housing. I love watching them become themselves again. They recognize that it is in them. That they can do it.” While the Center clients are in house due to physical challenges, mental health concerns are always close. Kay explains this aspect of “health” is often front and center: “We have to be able to determine what’s best in the moment. Clients might be in a crisis emotionally. Mental health can be a major challenge and overwhelming for the client and the team. I think the difference for me is that I do see each client as an individual. There is NOT one person who wants to experience homelessness. I think a major barrier that we are facing is mental health issues and substance abuse. The trauma our clients experienced as children is still repeated today, and has become a cycle that they are now trapped in. As an adult, with their trauma, they often don’t recognize the severity of their issues and continue to repeat these cycles, which eventually takes a toll on their physical health as well as the circumstances of their lives.” Importantly, at the same time, Kay’s team addresses social and housing concerns so that when an individual is discharged, they are prepared. Housing in the current environment can be difficult and doubly so for the multiple and far-reaching challenges our clients face. Kay explains that her own success is tied closely to her team and that “she could not do it without them.” “I really have never worked with a more dedicated, invested and real “people” team. We have real moments here. Clients often have severe hardships and frustrations to overcome. We truly want to be part of their success. My team demonstrates that every day and I am very proud of them. One thing that I have learned is that each staff member creates a unique relationship with clients. At the end of the day, it all works together.” Kay and the team demonstrate a commitment that inspires me every day. I know that their skills and determination make a big difference in the recovery of our clients. Kay also notes that, “Our level of commitment to the clients starts at the door. We initially begin with a medical referral, but (in the end) we help people see themselves as people who are important to this community. If we can get them to a better place physically and mentally, we can get them to a solution.” I am humbled that Kay also credits our leadership team, the medical team and me. “This community needs to recognize the amount of time, energy and diligence that Laurie and the administrative team demonstrates daily, even during the pandemic. The Center was challenged to look for additional resources and standards to protect and encourage clients and staff. We are doing okay because of the leadership here. All our teams, medical, case management, development and administrative, do an amazing job, individually and together, to ensure the health and safety of both clients and staff. We continue to grow and thrive, even under the most difficult circumstances, which makes me very grateful.”