How to have each other's backs

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Jennifer Jasper
Jennifer Jasper
What do you think of when you hear the slogan “We've got your back?” A slogan said by teenagers in a pick-up basketball game, or maybe between friends before a fight? For those of us at The Manors at Hobe Sound, it means something much deeper. 

My career at The Manors of Hobe Sound in Hobe Sound, FLA, began in May 2004. I'm sure like many of you, just when I think I have seen it all, something new comes to my attention. Just when I think I have learned it all, a new regulation or policy comes out.  Just when I think I have accomplished it all, a new challenge arises. Being a long-term care administrator is a never-ending learning experience.

While we have all had our challenges, I've had more than my fair share. Since becoming The Manors administrator, we have endured three major hurricanes while not having to evacuate our residents or 200-plus staff. Before starting here I had never been through a hurricane, so that was an experience. I've had the terrible experience of handling a suicide in our parking lot, not of a resident but a local woman. It looked like “CSI:Miami” in the parking lot for hours. Another time, an SUV crashed into our lake, which was used in a bank robbery two days prior. The Sherriff's Department had to retrieve the SUV from the lake and helicopters were flying over the facility.

While going through each day here at The Manors the one thing that I think I have accomplished is gaining respect. This was not an easy task, as I was very “green” as an administrator when I started here in 2004. I was, and still am, the youngest department manager on staff, and gaining the respect of my fellow managers as well as my line staff was not easy.

But one thing that made me different was that I started from the bottom and worked my way up. I was a social worker and a care plan coordinator. I know what it is like to work for an administrator you did not like or work someplace you were not happy.

When it comes to surveys in our building, I want everything to look polished and perfect. I stress to my staff that 15 seconds is all we have to make a good first impression. If we mess up in the first 15 seconds, we make the rest of the survey process negative, and so there is no room for failure.  I walk around my facility, and I think that is how I have gained the respect of my staff and my residents. I pass trays at meal times for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I have no problems with cleaning windows, picking up trash, putting clothes on a resident, etc. I am not expecting anyone to do something that I will not do. My staff may not always like me, but I strive for their respect. I teach on the hallway, not from behind a desk covered with “write-ups” or “disciplinary action slips.”

That's what it means to me to have my staff's back. My management style is to lead by example and to set expectations that are very high. We are in the business of saving lives, so why would our expectations be any lower? I'm very proud that our facility has been a 5-star rated facility since 2009, and we've won awards for being a top facility.

But more important than the awards is that our dear sweet residents know that we will protect them, honor them, and treat them all with dignity, respect, and, most importantly, with love. This philosophy comes from our owners, the Bortz family. It is our job to continue this tradition and pass it on to every resident that comes through these doors as well as every staff member that comes to seek employment.

Life is not always perfect in long-term care, but the rewards in working in this industry far out weigh the imperfections. We may make mistakes and we may not always cross our ‘t's or dot our ‘i's but we will always “have each others' back” here at The Manors.

Jennifer Jasper, NHA, is the administrator at Edgewater Manor, The Manors At Hobe Sound, in Florida.

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