Happy staff is key to quality

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Jill Gilbert
Jill Gilbert
St. Paul's Towers in Oakland, CA, is a striking facility with its sweeping views of Lake Merritt, lush rooftop garden and cozy atmosphere. But that's not what makes it such a standout. It's like Mom always said: It's what's inside that counts. Nursing Administrator Cherese Holland heads up the enthusiastic and attentive staff.

Simple thanks work

Keeping up staff morale is all about support, Holland says. She credits the high quality of care at the facility to a happy staff, saying that it's necessary to make sure you recognize the staff, and let them know that you appreciate—what they do.

She described the facility's unique thank-you card program, where the 12 department heads, including her, write two thank-you cards to two employees each week to thank them for their hard work. A recent note thanked a staffer for being particularly hands-on in helping a resident during an activity. Even smaller things such as administrative tasks don't go unnoticed.

The department heads personally deliver the thank-you cards to the employees. Holland files a copy (to make sure everyone gets it done!) and recognizes those who were thanked at the monthly staff meeting. She stresses that it's “the personalized touch that makes a difference, the time and thought that goes into it. Each thank-you is tailored — no form letters. They have a big impact.”

Everyone has a voice

Holland holds a monthly “town hall” meeting where she meets with every line staff member. Everyone  — from care personnel to security workers and beyond — meets with her on a one-on-one basis and has the chance to voice concerns.

The only rule: No supervisors are allowed! Holland maintains that giving staffers an open forum helps resolve issues. Recently, the housekeepers complained that the fresh linens they received had an odor. Holland called the linen company and resolved it immediately.

“Everyone wants to be heard. I listen and take action,” she said.


Jill Gilbert is President and CEO of GilbertGuide.com, which produces unbiased ratings, facilities reviews and assistive services as well as educational resources and easy-to-use tools.

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