Creating a staffing community

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Karen Nesvold
Karen Nesvold
During the 1980s, I managed a community-based group home for people with developmental disabilities. The last several years I have been a department manager in an assisted living facility for seniors.

One of the many challenges is maintaining a staffing balance throughout the community. The symmetry can be felt by residents and family members alike. Whether it be maintenance, dietary, activities, housekeeping, and/or nursing-each area has its own hands-on responsibilities. Everyone is in it together and plays an integral role in the daily lives of the residents.

Within each department, there are different levels of awareness, different skills and personalities. Managers must find ways to teach and model so their staff learn to have respect for each department. It is important to develop tolerance for various skills and approaches. It all creates the bigger picture-one team in balance, serving the residents together.

Find ways to encourage staff members to learn and change through training and appropriate techniques. Everyone communicates and interacts in a different way. Consequently, there must be various ways to share information with people and connect each area within the facility.

When we find ways to include and empower all staff, they will be creative, learn to rely on each other and become confident in what they do. A good place to start? Use your mission statement. Share it with all staff. Talk about how each department and each individual is a part of the whole, and how each person's abilities balance out every part of the mission. When you find ways to use each person on board, you harness a tremendous amount of energy.

When things seem to go wrong, ask the group, "How can we do this differently?" Individuals can ask themselves, "What can I do differently?" People will do their best when everyone is involved, when they hear "thank you" often and when they understand how their departments overlap with one another.

Relying on each other is the only way to be certain that the residents are being served—totally. With today's workforce, it takes continuous learning and a lot of nurturing to develop an empowering environment.

Find ways to celebrate diversity. Create ways in which departments can meld and emerge as one team. When the No. 1 goal is to serve and support the residents together, the whole facility will function like a streamlined service-centered organization.

It will put a smile on the face of each staff member, and that in turn will put a smile on the face of each resident.

Karen Nesvold is the housekeeping manager at Orchard Park Assisted Living in Bellingham, WA.

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