What a long, strange trip

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ACHCA Chairman Timothy Dressman
ACHCA Chairman Timothy Dressman
Should a visitor ever go into labor at eldercare's St. Leonard Franciscan Living Community in Centreville, OH, never fear: The executive director knows his way around a delivery room.

Timothy Dressman, CNHA, CALA, FACHCA, and the chairman of American College of Health Care Administrators, has worked in long-term care most of his life. At age 13, he started as an elevator operator at a nursing home in Kentucky. He's also a retired commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve Medical Corps who launched his career as a corpsman at the Naval Hospital Labor and Delivery Ward in Charleston, SC.

Working the third shift, he oversaw the birth of a handful of newborns on his own. “Who would have thought you joined the Navy and delivered babies?” he says.

Dressman, 51, began working in nursing homes in the 1980s but stayed in the Naval Reserves until 2007. Stints ranged from materials management at Camp LeJeune, NC, to being the administrator of Naval Hospital Roosevelt Roads in Puerto Rico in 2003.

During the latter, Dressman still found a way to help long-term care residents. A dilapidated nursing home near the naval hospital housed 18 people, 15 of whom were American war veterans.

“The hospital staff volunteered their time to do the electrical and plumbing work and paint it,” Dressman remembers. “I got some donations from Franciscan friars and we sent them commercial washers and dryers. Two years later, they were Medicare-certified.”

The desire to help others has been ingrained in Dressman since childhood. He hails from a “very German Catholic family” of six boys and six girls. His father, a county judge, had everyone “do their time” at the county nursing home in Covington, KY.

“During those high school years, I moved around to stock boy in the kitchen and pot washer. When I started college, I kept working at the same nursing home as a housekeeper,” Dressman says.

His career with Catholic nursing homes “allows me to integrate my faith traditions,” Dressman says. Long-term care administration “is more than clocking in from 8 to 5,” he adds. “It's a vocation and a ministry. If you love what you are doing and someone is paying you, you can't ask for anything better.”

Dressman credits Dan Suer, administrator at Hillebrand Nursing and Rehab Center in Cincinnati, with getting him more involved with the College roughly 15 years ago. Suer says Dressman has helping the organization change and overcome challenges.

“Tim is energetic, dedicated, likeable and competitive,” Suer says. “He's passionate about the College. He's trained a lot of people.”

When Dressman is not spending time with his four children — 26-year-old Lexie; 23-year-old Darcie; 13-year-old Timmy and 11-year-old Hannah — or his wife Kelly, he likely can be found at a rock-and-roll concert. His favorite genre is Southern rock, but he's also a big Grateful Dead fan.

And back at St. Leonard's, Dressman has “learned how to be a hugger” with his staff.

“My family wasn't a lot into emotional sharing, but now I look forward to hugging,” he says. “That personal touch makes a difference.”