Paying it forward

Barb O’Brien has come full circle — from taking general education courses and later earning a nursing degree to giving back to the same institution that gave her a great start to a successful career.

O’Brien runs Live Right Senior Care, a company she founded in response to a need for more expert home health care services for the aging population. She also is a registered nurse for the Cook County Health Department, providing care for those with brain injuries and supporting the nursing field by working with legislators regarding patient loads and critical staffing shortages throughout the country.

The decision to pursue a career in the health care industry was inspired by her work in another country. After completing classes at Moraine Valley, O’Brien earned a bachelor’s degree from Moody Bible Institute in international ministry and theology and relocated to California to work on a master’s degree in intercultural studies. From there, she moved to China and taught business and English as a Second Language to undergraduate students.

“While I was in China, I saw how people treated the elderly, and I liked it,” she said, noting this motivated her to start a business in the United States to provide that same compassionate care.

She started the company and believed she could further enhance services if she had additional education, which prompted her to return to Moraine Valley to earn an associate degree in nursing. She transferred to Western Governor’s University, where she completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. To further complement her services, O’Brien enrolled at Liberty University to begin work on a Master of Arts degree in human services with an emphasis on health and wellness. In that coursework, she took nursing administration classes that included a segment on end-of-life-care.

“Prior to that, not that I was afraid of death, but I didn’t understand the significance of sitting beside someone and holding their hand and seeing that as a privilege to usher them into whatever that next step is. My heart became tender, and I thought for me the next step would be to add hospice care to the services we offer at Live Right,” she said. She hopes to add this service in the near future.

Giving back is something O’Brien has been doing for many years. “When I was a student at Moraine Valley, there were little things students needed, so every semester I would reach out to the Nursing Department and say, ‘Where’s the financial need right now?’ Her generosity included purchasing calculators for students and other items they needed for their lab work.

O’Brien’s spirit of giving back to Moraine Valley continues today. Her company is a sponsor of the annual Moraine Valley Foundation golf outing and the Halloween 5K, both of which raise money to fund student scholarships.

“I feel it’s important to give back. I think that’s what we’re called to do,” she said.