Meet the Team: Sullivan Trio

sullivans 1
sullivans 1

LIKE MOTHER, LIKE DAUGHTER: Janet Sullivan, center, has worked at Columbia Basin Care for 26 years. Following her example of commitment and compassion, her daughters, Heather, left, and Sara, work at the long-term care facility, too.

A nursing home seems an unlikely place for millennials to call home, but for Heather and Sara Sullivan, Columbia Basin Care has long been at the center of their lives.

“This is like our home,” says Heather, a bubbly blonde, who grew up coming to work with her mother and growing close to residents and staff. “It’s family.”

“We’ve been involved our whole lives,” says Sara, a quiet woman with a calming smile.

Now in their 20s, the sisters grew up at Columbia Basin Care. First, as youngsters accompanying their mother, Janet Sullivan, to work. Then as teens, serving as volunteers. And later, as adults, they joined the staff. Heather works as an assistant in the business office and is a certified nursing assistant and medication aide; Sara is a certified nursing assistant, and attends community college.

“We joke that they are Basin babies,” says their mother.

But let’s back up. This story starts with Janet, who has worked at Columbia Basin Care for 26 years. Dedicated, and with a quiet determination, she’s worked at the facility for more than half the company’s life. Founded in 1964, Columbia Basin Care is a nonprofit long-term care facility located in The Dalles.

Janet joined the team in 1989, and she has practical, hands-on knowledge of nearly every department. She’s filled many roles: certified nursing assistant, human resources director, activities director, and accounts payable. She is now the director of medical records.

Organized and tidy, record management seems a perfect fit.

“I like order,” says Janet. “I love to purge charts. It’s like cleaning a dirty floor and you see how nice and clean everything is when you’re done. “

But her work is more than just data. Her fondness for the residents of Columbia Basin Care is the driving force of her dedication.

“I go home and I worry about them because I care about them,” she says. “You’re not just taking care of them. You’re taking care of them, their family, their emotions . . .”

It’s that blend of commitment and compassion that Janet has modeled for her children.

“She taught us a work ethic and loyalty,” says Heather, who joined Columbia Basin in 2007. “And she showed us how to have a positive attitude.”

While the health care industry offers many career opportunities — particularly with the swelling population of senior citizens — the Sullivans note that working in long-term care is not for everyone.

“You must be a team player, have a heart, and be a hard worker,” says Janet. “You must be completely willing to get your hands dirty.”

The work can be stressful and emotionally draining, admits Sara, who has worked at Columbia Basin for three years. “You have to focus on the good parts of the job.”

The small moments matter, she says. A smile from a resident. A hand that holds yours in appreciation. Easing a pain. Laughing with co-workers.

“I like helping others. It’s rewarding,” says Sara, “and I think I make an impact. The residents are family. We’ve become very close.”

And the family legacy may continue. Sara’s two-year-old daughter, Lily, is too young to know her future, but she’s already making appearances at Columbia Basin Care, where residents dote over the cheerful toddler. Like mother, like daughter.


Ready for a Career Change?

CNA at work
CNA at work

MAKE A DIFFERENCE: CNAs provide hands-on help, with heart.

Columbia Basin Care, the region’s only nonprofit long-term care facility, is offering free training to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA). The six-week course starts in January 2016. Apply by December 15, 2015. Space is limited and applicants are encouraged to apply early.

Columbia Basin Care will train qualified candidates, and offer competitive wages and benefits to graduates. No previous health care experience is required — just a desire to learn, a heart to help, and a dedication to work that makes a difference.

CNAs work under the direction of nurses and are the backbone of health care, providing hands-on help and assisting patients with bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, oral care and more.

“It’s the hardest work you’ll ever do, but it’s the most rewarding,” says Julie Kimbell, who has worked as a CNA for nearly 30 years.

At Columbia Basin Care, nursing assistants work with highly qualified staff and have opportunities for on-the-job learning. The facility has the area’s only on-site geriatric nurse practitioner, Valerie Hiveley-Blatz, who specializes in elder care and serves as the primary care physician for many residents. In addition, a team of licensed physical, occupational and speech therapists provide comprehensive rehabilitation and restorative services.

With just a six-week investment of time and effort, a new career can take shape. But what does it take to be successful?

“You have to love people,” says Kimbell. “You’re important to their lives. You make a difference.”

For more information, or to apply, contact Cassie Hill, Director of Nursing Services,, or visit in person, Columbia Basin Care, 1015 Webber St, in The Dalles.


Road Trip!


We’re going places! From museums to shopping to scenic drives, we like to get out and about and see the world beyond our doors.

Columbia Basin Care residents recently visited the alpaca farm at Foothills Yarn & Fiber near Hood River, Oregon.


Laura and Alpaca 1

Laura makes a new friend.

Lucille & George

George, Lucille, and Diana feed the alpaca.