Former President and Director of Nursing, ASTVA Home Health Agency
PURSUING A LIFELONG PASSION IN HOME HEALTH CARE
Margarita Ukman’s passion for home health care began when she was a child living in Moscow, Russia. “Whenever I’d get sick, my mom would call and a doctor would come to our house,” she says. “My mom told me ‘he’s supposed to come here because you’re sick.’ I knew then that someday, I wanted to be the one coming to people’s homes to take care of them.”
And so that’s what she did. As an adult, Ukman received training both as a nurse and as a home health physician before she and her family immigrated to the United States in 1990. “I wanted to be able to treat people using evidence-based practice and the latest research inventions,” she says. “For example, in Russia, I was told to use non-adherent dressing to treat shingles, while in the U.S. nurses were already using antiviral medications for it.”
In St. Louis, she received her associate's degree, and then her bachelor’s degree in nursing, at the former Jewish Hospital School of Nursing and Allied Health.
In 2001, while working as a staff nurse for a local St. Louis hospital, she also began working part-time at Mid-America Home Health as a home health nurse. Later that year, she was hired by Medery/Tender Care Home Health Agency as a nurse coordinator for Medicare skilled care patients. It was there she felt that skilled home health care was the future for chronically sick people, and studied as much as she could about it. A few years later, she was appointed director of nursing for Mid-America Home Health’s Medicare skilled care division.
In 2005, Ukman decided to open her own company. ASTVA Home Health Agency provided skilled nursing, case management, medication management, wound care, comprehensive rehabilitation and lab services for home-bound patients in St. Louis, St. Charles and Jefferson County, Missouri. ASTVA also arranged physician home visits and referrals to specialists for patients as needed.
“I developed my own case management model and then when I started hiring nurses, I taught them my model,” she says. “Our patients were very complex and diverse. We had patients who spoke Russian, Chinese, German and Spanish – you name it. I would hire interpreters for some cases, but every single one of my nurses spoke more than two languages.”
Ukman wanted to integrate the nurse practitioner model into ASTVA’s service, so she returned to Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College to pursue the MSN Adult Nurse Practitioner program. “I gained a lot of knowledge in disease management and implementation of evidence-based practice,” she says. “Now, I feel much more comfortable in my presentation skills for both clinical and business situations.”
In 2010, she and her husband moved to Long Island, New York, for family reasons, so she sold ASTVA to a company that shared her vision for home health care.
Ukman's passion for home health endures, and she is excited about the increased role that nurse practitioners will play in the era of health care reform. “You could implement a home health agency anywhere in the United States,” she says. “There are tremendous opportunities here, so I would love to see if I could implement a similar service like ASTVA.”
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In June 2010, Ukman presented a lecture on maximizing the impact of home care at Saint Louis University's 21st Annual Summer Geriatric Institute. She lectured on the regulations, challenges and rewards of providing complex, multi-team approaches in home care. In September 2010, she also participated in the telephone conference dedicated to the Affordable Care Act and New Patient’s Bill of Rights led by the First Lady Michelle Obama.