When Veronica Khrustaleva was young, she participated in rhythmic gymnastics – a sport in which athletes execute complicated floor routines using one of four versions of an apparatus: hoop, ball, clubs, and ribbon. (It also once included rope, but that has since been discontinued).
After much hard work and dedication, Veronica reached the elite level of this Olympic sport and ranked sixth in the nation. Juggling both school and practice, which took up five to six hours a day, five days a week, required her to be both extremely disciplined and highly organized.
“As a kid doing a sport at that level, you have to be on top of it,” Veronica said. “I was independent from a young age and my parents said: Your schoolwork has to be complete in order to participate in gymnastics. So, I made sure I made time for everything. I was able to not only succeed, but finished high school during my junior year, started college earlier, and graduated nursing school a year earlier than my friends.”
Today, Veronica applies the same rigor and focus to her position as Americare’s Director of Staff Education, in which she is charged with overseeing orientation for all incoming RNs and therapists and setting them up for success in the field.
“They come in and learn concepts, policies, procedures, and how to document on the system, and I make sure that once they’re done, they’re ready to fly on their own,” Veronica explained.
“Then they go out into the field with a preceptor, who guides them as they’re seeing patients and providing care, making sure they’re asking the right questions and helping if they run into any issues.”
Veronica is an RN herself and received her nursing degree from Long Island University in Brooklyn. She moved from Belarus to the U.S. at the young age of six because her parents were seeking better medical care for her brother, who suffered from several ailments.
Unfortunately, Veronica’s brother did not live past the age of 26. But her experience of seeing his struggling, accompanying him to hospitals and witnessing the care he received at the hands of skilled and compassionate nurses, inspired her to go into the field.
Veronica has been a nurse for 15 years – 13 of which she has spent at Americare. She started as a field nurse, and then transitioned into quality review, which required her to oversee documentation and ensure it was done correctly. After doing that for a few years, she transitioned into education management, and then moved to her current post two years ago.
All this experience, Veronica said, helps her better prepare trainees when they embark on their orientation experience.
“I let them know hints and tricks, what is expected of them and best practices, what the reviewer is going to be looking for,” Veronica shared. “Even though I’m not providing hands-on care myself, I’m always researching and making sure we’re sending nurses to conferences to keep them up to date. I feel like I’m continuing to care for patients through them.”
Veronica serves as the trainees’ direct point of contact – up to 10 clinicians participate in each class, which lasts about four to five weeks. She aims to serve as a mentor and a guide, she said, and works to ensure that everyone feels comfortable enough to reach out to her with questions or problems whenever they occur.
The home care field is booming, as a growing number of patients prefer to remain in familiar surroundings and out of institutional settings, and copious data has shown that outcomes are better across the board with this approach. Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Veronica said, a growing number of nurses who worked in hospitals are feeling burned out and looking to make a change.
“They’re looking to the home care experience because they’re better able to see the patient progress and how they’re doing in the long run,” Veronica explained. “And they’re not handling 10 to 12 patients at once during a shift and can spend more quality minutes devoted to care, in my opinion.”
Veronica worked in a hospital herself for several years and heard about Americare through a friend who knew she wasn’t happy and was looking for something different. She came to the company and “fell in love with the people, the staff, and the administration,” who have since become “like family.”
When Veronica isn’t working, she spends time at her Brooklyn home with her two kids. Her daughter is following in her mother’s footsteps and has fallen in love with rhythmic gymnastics.
“I try not to coach from the sidelines, but sometimes it happens,” Veronica laughed. “She’s going to the same club that I used to go it, and it brings back so many memories. I do miss it myself, and it’s satisfying to see her doing it and liking it.”