River City Six – Elena O’Connell-Centamore
Meet Elena O’Connell-Centamore, medical social worker at Home Nursing With Heart (homenursingwithheart.com).
Tell us a little about your business.
Home Nursing With Heart is a Home Healthcare company that provides in-home services for our patients, including skilled nursing; physical, occupational, speech, and respiratory therapy; and social work. My role involves helping patients navigate the vast healthcare system, providing them with emotional support and counseling as they adjust to their illness or disease, and helping them and their families get connected to community resources and support.
How did you get started in the business?
I spent six years working for Heartland Family Service Therapeutic School, where I was exposed to the amazing work of social workers. I did my graduate studies at the UNO Grace Abbot School of Social Work, during which I did a practicum at Nebraska Medicine and fell in love with medical social work.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced professionally?
Navigating larger, complex systems in order to advocate for our clients can be overwhelming when the resources aren’t there, or your client faces a number of barriers to accessing them. I’ve also had to find effective ways to practice self-care, as the work I do can be very challenging, mentally and emotionally.
What has been your most important achievement professionally?
Earning a master’s degree while being pregnant and raising small children was a daunting task, but I did it! I have been very fortunate to have a great support system.
Tell us a little about your family.
My husband Frank is a chef at a local country club. We have a four-year-old son, and an almost two-year-old daughter.
What do you see as one of the biggest turning points in your life?
Working in the healthcare system has exposed me to the macro level problems so many in our country face, such as accessing affordable healthcare and resources. This has made me passionate about addressing micro level issues for my patients, advocating for policy change at the state level, and finding a way to address the inequities
Who inspires you?
My mother. She is a local artist and printmaker with national recognition for her work, and an amazing mother and grandmother to my children. She and my dad have shown me unconditional love and support throughout my life and are a huge part of my professional success.
Which talent would you most like to have?
More artistic talent…I enjoy crafting, but did not get the artist gene from my mother.
What local non-profit organization(s) are you passionate about or involved with, and are there any special reasons why?
I work closely with the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging. They provide valuable resources that make a tangible and positive difference in elderly people’s lives, including Meals on Wheels, care management, and respite care.
What is your favorite book or the last good book you read?
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver.
What is your favorite movie?
The Wizard of Oz, especially now that I can share it with my children.
What is your favorite local restaurant?
El Basha. I love middle eastern food.
If you could have dinner with one famous person from the past or present, who would it be?
Jane Addams, the “mother” of American social work and founder of Hull House.
If our readers would like to contact you, how should they do so?