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On Island Profile: Jane Washburn

Sept. 9, 2007 — Jane Washburn is a woman on the move — literally. As the Health Department's public health nurse on St. John, she's out and about educating, doing preventive medicine and helping residents with their health issues.
She's also a member of the Middle Age Majorettes, an energetic twirling and marching group that appears in local parades and serves as a social network for its members.
Then there's her involvement with AARP, where she is St. John chapter secretary and health coordinator. And she's a Red Cross volunteer. And a judge at the annual Animal Care Center's Wagapalooza. And she worked at the Children's Carnival Village. And she's busy staying in touch with her son, Colin Sheehan, 28, a funeral director in the Washington, D.C. area, as well as her father and brother.
Did we mention that she likes to snorkel?
"And I'm a voracious reader," she said.
Washburn moved to St. John eight years ago from the Boston suburb of Reading, Mass. after a sailing vacation to the British Virgin Islands convinced her that the island lifestyle was for her.
"I didn't know a soul, but I decided one way or another I was coming," she said.
She said that while it looks like a brave decision, she'd rather take chances than have regrets when she's 80.
Washburn initially sold timeshares at the Westin Resort and Villas for a bit — an unsuccessful venture that convinced her she needed to get back into nursing.
She said that when she got out of high school in the late 1960s, women didn't have many choices beyond nursing and teaching. She opted for nursing.
"I was always good in emergencies," she said.
After graduating from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, she worked 20 years at the hospital.
"I did a lot of home care," she said.
Along the way, she added some additional letters to her RN for registered nurse. CLNC stands for Certified Legal Nurse Consultant, a designation that gets her jobs involving court cases. She's also a QDCP, a Qualified Dementia Care Provider.
With that experience, she worked as director of clinical care at Sea View Health Care Service, an arm of Sea View nursing home on St. Thomas.
She also worked as the hospice nurse for St. Thomas and St. John at Continuum Care, a job she still does after she's finished at the Health Department.
Washburn said as the public health nurse, she looks at the patient's big picture.
"As I walk in the door, I'm making an assessment. Who's the support system, who cooks…," she said.
She said her job is to set up things up so the patient gets the best care, a task which requires thinking outside the box in a small community with fewer services than other islands.
Washburn said the care of people with Alzheimer's disease is a particular interest because residents are not well informed about the disease process. She said it's a huge challenge for the territory because the problem is only going to get worse.
"The statistics show that African-Americans will be hard hit because of poor vascular health," she said.
She said that if the pay was better for Certified Nursing Assistants or nurse's aides, more people would want the job. If people were available to help patients with Alzheimer's at home, nursing home admissions could be delayed by two years.
Washburn said that on St. John, many families care for their elderly relatives at home because the closest nursing home is on St. Thomas.
She said that one creative family agreed to pool their money to pay one sister what she made on her job so she could stay home and care for their mother.
Washburn said that in general, the community faces multiple health issues.
"Hypertension, diabetes, kidney failure…," she said, ticking off a list of problems dealt with by the public health nurse.
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