With a background in psychology, and a passion for the emotional side of care, Mike Culver makes a lasting difference in his patients’ lives.
Mike Culver’s flash of inspiration to switch gears from psychiatric care to home nursing came in the form of an attacking pit bull. “I was going to rooming houses and random parks to meet patients. I loved the work and still love psych, but as I got a bit older and had kids and found myself in violent and dangerous situations, I thought maybe it was time to move on.” Now, he laughs as he shares one of his favorite things about his current job: “Honestly? I can tell people where I live.”
Mike lives in central Massachusetts and works out of the Kindred at Home branch in nearby Marlborough. To meet or talk with him is to experience that rare person who is exactly where they’re meant to be, the place where they can do the most good and be their best self. For him, that happens to be the moment when patients are at their very worst. “When their family doesn’t know what to do, they don’t have somebody that’s really available. When things are really bad, I can try to help them navigate it. And I obviously, I can’t fix everything that’s wrong, that’s not real life. But I can at least help them get a grip on their situation, understand what’s going on, and try to make the best decisions for themselves. That’s a real honor to get to be that person.”
On a recent visit, Mike spent time with Bob, an elderly patient whose daughter and wife have passed away and is now navigating his later years, trying as best he can to maintain some independence. Mike helped him with his mobility, tenderly examined his toenails, and set up a podiatrist visit. Bob is a success story. “He was discharged with a wound on his leg that the doctors said wouldn’t heal. They said, just try not to get it infected. We ended up healing it in a month and a half doing what we thought would work. His family was really grateful and that built trust to keep working with us.”
True to his roots, Mike views his job as “half nurse, half cheerleader” and has come to value the emotional side of what he does even more than the technical side. “Blood pressures and that stuff, that’s great, you can have medications delivered, you could have an automatic blood pressure cuff. You can do a lot of that stuff, but we help take some of the load off emotionally. We get to take that stress off them. If you think about it, there’s really nothing more stressful than the potential for death or dying.”
Investing at that deeply personal level creates bonds that far outlast the length of a visit or period of care. Mike shares the story of Felix, a patient he hadn’t seen in six months. Felix had a fall and ended up back in the hospital where the staff asked who they should call. “He just kept saying, you got to call Mike, you got to call Mike my nurse. It’s sad, in a way, but shows the connection we can have with people.” He’s also had family members call him when former patients pass on. “They just buried a parent or grandmother but still reach out just to say ‘thanks for being there for her.’”
In the thick of the day-to-day, the rush from one appointment to the next, it can sometimes be hard to see the bigger picture. But Mike seems to have it firmly in his sights. “When I was a kid, I used to work on a farm and at the end of the summer, you could see all the vegetables, right? You could see all the stuff that your work did, you had a physical thing in front of you. And this is the first nursing job where I get to see real positive long-term results. Seeing people that can walk that were bed bound before. Seeing someone gain strength and independence again. That’s a pretty great bonus to working here.”