Caring for CCC Residents with Heart

Katie Ellis

Employment badges are required at Lompoc Valley Medical Center: Comprehensive Care Center. Some employees adorn them with service or educational pins. For CCC Administrator Katie Ellis, there’s a special story behind the charm on her badge.

Affixed to her badge is a small gold heart, with a tiny diamond. It is a gift from her parents, John and Dee Mass. The couple, married almost 60 years, had four children, with Katie the only girl.

“When I graduated with my LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse), they took my dad’s wedding ring and had it melted down and made into that heart,” Katie explains. “It was a symbol of love and dedication, so they gave that to me when I graduated. And their message was to me was that as a nurse, to do everything from my heart and to always find love in what I do.”

At first, her parents didn’t tell her the gift was made from her father’s ring. But when she graduated from California State University at Dominguez Hills with her bachelor’s degree in nursing, they asked for it back and added a diamond.

“They said their hope is that I always shine,” Katie says.

She said every morning when she puts on her badge, the heart reminds her of their messages.

“It’s just part of me,” she says.

Katie began working part-time at Lompoc Valley Medical Center in 2010 as a registered nurse in the Critical Care Unit, and at the end of 2011 became a full-time employee. She soon took on the position of Charge Nurse, working as a liaison between nursing staff and management. She moved into the job of Nurse Manager in the Critical Care Unit in 2013 and then to the job of Director of the CCU. She later became the director of nursing at the CCC, the district’s 110-bed skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility.

“From the earliest parts when you start thinking about what you want to do, I wanted to be a nurse,” she says.

Some of that desire came from circumstances of her childhood when she experienced a serious illness. She remembers being in and out of doctor’s offices and having procedures. Eventually, her parents took her to UCLA for care.

“Those people were so nurturing,” she said. “I walked out of there not realizing it was a big deal that I had a procedure done.”

After a career spent as a nurse in critical care, she decided to challenge herself with the skilled nursing and post-acute rehab environment.

“I didn’t know if I was going to enjoy long-term care,” Katie admits. “Every day that I come to work, I have the honor of walking into people’s home, and working with a staff who thoroughly enjoy working here. I love seeing residents live. It’s not a place to come to die, it’s a place to live.”

She said it is her daily goal to make a difference in someone’s day.

“It might be their last day,” Katie says. “That’s my goal, to every day come and reach out to somebody. They might not remember from the day before. But you never know when someone with dementia will have that moment of lucidity.”

She mentions being with a long-term resident recently as the man passed away. She held his hand as he died.

“It’s not the facility that makes the place,” she says. “It’s the people inside. As a nurse, I want to fix people. But sometimes, what I can do is a comfort.”

katie ellis