“I believe in health equity”

“I grew up in rural Southern Kentucky, close to the Tennessee line. We had two physicians in our whole county, and they were getting up in age, so the skills they had weren’t conducive to the care that was needed in the community. And because I saw that gap in the ability to provide care, it really pushed me even further into health care.”

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“I don’t think I was cognizant of it, but I was always there, helping and interacting with others.”

Caring for people was always a part of Jitana Benton-Lee’s life. Years before she became a Patient Care Manager at UK HealthCare, she spent her childhood visiting the nursing home founded by her great-grandfather.

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Jitana shows a photo of her great-grandfather, who founded a nursing home in the 1950s.

“My family put people first: they wanted to nurture other people, to help people become well, and to help people reach their goals. I witnessed that growing up, and I decided that I wanted to go into health care and to make a difference in other people’s lives.”

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“My job is to make sure that the nurses on the unit are well trained, competent and comfortable with providing care.”

That mission continues to guide Jitana as she leads a staff of more than 100 nurses, nurse aides, and patient care assistants. She ensures that her team provides the best possible care, 24 hours a day—a mandate that includes everything from advocating for patients’ rights to helping educate patients about how to care for themselves when they return home.

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“I have a waiting list of people that want to come in and work for me, and I think it's because the team atmosphere.”

“I’m really big on diversity and inclusion in health care,” she said. “This past year I’ve worked with nurses to provide  interculturally sensitive nursing care. Every patient that comes in, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation, they have a culture. It’s about understanding their culture, appreciating it, and then incorporating it into their health care.”

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“We’re like family. We can anticipate each other's needs very, very well.”

Many of the patients in Jitana’s care are recovering from surgeries or traumas, so they’re only on the unit for a few days. But that’s still enough time to build strong relationships with her nurses and staff. When a patient does stay longer, those bonds become even more powerful.

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“It's about those one-on-one connections between staff and staff, but also between staff and patients.”

“There was one patient that was here with us—not just on my floor, but on multiple floors in the hospital. She had been here five or six months, and she wasn’t getting any better. At that time, she decided she wanted to get married, so she got married here at UK. They held her wedding on another floor, and we held her reception here.”

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“If we're talking about advancing medical care, you have to have that relationship building.”

Jitana knows that the best patient care comes from nurses, techs and aides who are educated and empowered. She encourages her staff to pursue advanced certifications and degrees, and works hard to build an atmosphere where everyone works together collaboratively. It’s an approach that works: she has a waiting list of staff who want to come join her team and serve the diverse cross-section of patients who pass through their doors every day.

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Jitana was recognized by her team for her commitment to diversity in nursing.

“I believe in health equity, and here at UK, we provide health care to the Commonwealth. So regardless of who you are or what you look like, we’re going to provide care to you. I come back day after day because I have an opportunity to decrease health disparities for patients, and I’m very passionate about people getting better and living a wellness lifestyle.”

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“Regardless of who you are or what you look like, we're going to provide care to you.”

Learn more about the work of nurses like Jitana at UK HealthCare.