New Madrid woman has become successful mother and businesswoman

Monday, April 29, 2019
Michelle Tolbert has juggled the responsibilities of single parenting with running a senior community, and she’s done it successfully.
SMNS photo

NEW MADRID, Mo. — Michelle Tolbert, Administrator at Heritage Nursing Center, has juggled the responsibilities of single parenting with running a senior community, and she’s done it successfully.

Tolbert grew up in Gideon and graduated from Central Methodist College in Fayette, Missouri.

“I wanted to be a nurse,” said Tolbert. “That was my career path. Everyone in my family seems to be in nursing.”

Tolbert has a daughter in nursing as well as a sister and sister-in-law in nursing. Another daughter is in dental school.

“That’s what I was going to do,” she said.

“I actually had a friend who worked in long term care,” commented Tolbert. “She said I would be really good in administration. I started thinking about it, and I did veer the other way into administration.”

Tolbert continued, “It was a good decision for me. I wish I had that nursing degree, but it didn’t agree with my career path.”

Tolbert reflected on her beginnings in long term care and working with senior communities.

“My very first job was at Portageville Nursing Center. It was 17 years ago,” stated Tolbert. “I was in social services and activities. I was very blessed. My administrator, Patty Harmon, gave me a break.”

Tolbert had been a stay-at-home mom and then went through a divorce.

“I had to go to work,” said Tolbert. “Harmon taught me almost everything I know. She was a great mentor. She played a huge part in my life.”

Tolbert continued, “You’re at a crossroads when you go through a divorce, to say the least. She took a chance. She taught me the business end. She taught me everything I needed to know. Then she let me go and allowed me to work at the corporate office where I was able to see the bigger picture.”

Following a stint as administrator at Portageville Nursing Center, Tolbert moved into a position that required some traveling.

“I became a person that went to facilities that were in trouble,” shared Tolbert. “They had a bad survey or had a lot of turnover. I would be at that facility for six or seven months, do what needed to be done, and then move on to the next place that was in need. I was a fixer.”

Tolbert shared her thoughts on being a single parent.

“It was difficult, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she said. “I am so proud of my daughters. They’re very good kids. They’re very successful in their endeavors.”

Tolbert acknowledged she had help raising her family.

“Everybody I worked for helped me, because my kids grew up in long term care,” said Tolbert. “They were part of it.”

“I’m a natural nurturer,” she said. “I took care of my brothers and sisters. That just came naturally to me. Every job I had since I started this, they embraced me, they embraced my children. They gave me the ability to never feel like my kids were a burden. I’m so thankful for that.”

Tolbert reflected on her association with Americare.

“Americare had a position open,” she said. “They offered me the assisted living program. Seven years ago I started in assisted living, which I loved. It’s a different dynamic. I believe it’s something every administrator should do.”

“I was there for a little over a year and then transferred, and I’ve been here for almost six years,” said Tolbert. “This is the longest I’ve been in one facility.”

Tolbert, who resides in New Madrid, commented she loves Kennett and her staff at Heritage Nursing Center.

“I sleep in New Madrid, but I live in Kennett,” said Tolbert. “Kennett is my home.”

“Sometimes, with this job, you need that commute,” shared Tolbert. “These residents and the people I work with, they’re like my family. You’re also dealing with families that are going through crisis. Whether it’s the first time they’ve admitted a loved one or the loss of a loved one, or dealing with a diagnosis that they don’t know how to get their heads wrapped around.”

Tolbert continued, “You are their person. It’s a cross to bear, never a burden. When I leave here it’s like I’m leaving 53 of my family members. They’re never off of your mind. You need that 45 minute drive to just wind down.”

“I love my residents and my family members,” said Tolbert. “I love that no matter what kind of mood I’m in, no matter what’s going on in my outside world, as soon as I walk through those doors, they make me happy.”

Tolbert reflected on the changes she has seen in the senior communities.

“The biggest change that I have seen is patient centered care,” stated Tolbert. “That person matters. It doesn’t matter if they have dementia, or Alzheimer’s, their perception is 100 percent truth and you have to treat that patient how they perceive their life to be.”

Tolbert continued, “That’s been a movement over the last ten years. It’s been huge. They have a right to make decisions. They have a right to have choices. It’s about quality of life.”

Tolbert shared advice for women entering business.

“The main thing I want women to know is that there’s nothing they can’t do,” said Tolbert. “There’s obstacles that come in your way. I had a child very young. We raised each other. She never became the reason I couldn’t do this.”

Tolbert continued, “You can never be a product of your situation. You can’t be a product of your situation. You have to be your biggest fan. There’s nothing that unattainable.”

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