Amanda Vivanco and Ekklesia “EK” Breed are on a mission to improve the standard of long-term care in rural Arizona. The pair of YC Nursing Program alumni are pursuing the mission separately – as nursing directors at care centers in the Verde Valley -- and together as a soon-to-be married couple with a shared passion for improving the lives of people dependent on nursing care.

“We’re here making sure their (patients’) home is the best it can be. It’s a privilege to be in their home,” said EK, the nursing director at Haven Health care center in Camp Verde.

One of the best ways to ensure patients feel at home away from home, said Amanda, the nursing director at Haven Health in Sedona, is to take care of employees. “My job is to provide care for my staff and if I take care of them, they’ll take care of our patients.”

Although not long out of nursing school – Amanda graduated in May 2021 and EK in May 2022 – the couple have embraced their leadership roles as an opportunity to help long-term care patients more than is possible in a clinic or hospital setting.

“We know we can make a difference in a facility like this,” said EK, referring to Haven Health. Added Amanda: “We have the privilege of caring for patients during their most vulnerable time. Nursing management has given us an opportunity to create an environment in which residents feel at home and are cared for to the highest standards.”

After meeting online five years ago and falling in love over a mutual desire to alleviate human suffering, Amanda and EK made their way to the Verde Valley to attend nursing school at the YC Verde Valley Campus in Clarkdale.

“It’s the best thing that could have ever happened,” EK said of meeting Amanda. “Some things are just meant to be and this is definitely one of them.”

Amanda had previously worked as an LPN and EK as a CNA. In those jobs they each concluded that as nurses they could more directly impact patient care. That notion was reinforced at YC where “a wonderful group of students” received unwavering support from nursing faculty and staff, EK said.

Both EK and Amanda also benefited from the help and wisdom of mentors in their personal lives. “They taught us what it meant to leaders and the importance of putting employees first,” EK said of his mentor and father figure, Art Davis, and Amanda’s mentor and former co-worker, Mama Soho.

To ensure they make their mark on the long-term care industry, Amanda and EK are pursuing more education. After earning a BSN at Grand Canyon University, Amanda aspires to be a nurse practitioner specializing in geriatrics. EK is pursuing a master’s degree in healthcare administration at Weber State University while simultaneously working toward a BSN at the University of Arizona.

YC Dean of Health Sciences Dr. Marylou Mercado recently tapped Amanda and EK to serve on the college’s Nursing Advisory Council. Composed of clinical-agency and higher-education partners, the Council meets every spring to share program outcomes, completion and employment data, testing success and trends in nursing education.

“Amanda and Ekklesia are brimming with enthusiasm and ambitious forward thinking to develop strategies that bring quality healthcare to the communities of Yavapai County. As members of the Nursing Advisory Council, they will have opportunities to express their ideas and plans for the future of healthcare and we look forward to collaborating with them,” Mercado said

Amanda and EK plan to use their education, their skills and compassion for vulnerable adults to change the way healthcare is delivered in rural care facilities. For now, they’re content to lead fellow nurses, healthcare practitioners and patients in the Verde Valley on a path to better long-term care.

“There’s a stigma around working in nursing homes. We want to bring a different atmosphere and a different energy,” EK said. “Our sole focus is really setting higher quality standards of care in rural areas.”