Lessons from Yolanda

Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

It seems I can't go anywhere or do anything without discovering some sort of lesson to pass along to you, the long-term care professional. Some amusing and/or embarrassing personal anecdote. Some tangential analogy. I'm a highly trained professional, after all, with a commitment to plundering my daily life for sharable nuggets in the service of this great profession.

Case in point. While checking into a hotel recently, I was asked which of three floors I preferred. I had never been to this town before, much less to this establishment, and had no concept of which to choose. “What do you recommend?” I asked the desk clerk. I'm Canadian, after all, and just want someone else to make all of life's important decisions.    

After pondering for a few seconds, she suggested we ask a co-worker, and summoned one from across the lobby. Yolanda turned out to be a friendly young woman from the custodial department who stood before us, eager to serve.

“Which room do you think this extremely bald gentleman would like best?” the clerk asked her. “134, 147, 228, 314, 276 or 259?” (She didn't actually say the bald part, but I could read between the lines.)

“Well,” Yolanda replied, with barely a nanosecond of hesitation, “314 has the best view, but it's closer to the elevator. 147 is nice, but faces away from the water. 228 has a better …” and on and on and on. She knew every room, its orientation, size, furnishings and relative merits. She probably could have given me exact window dimensions, sheet thread count and electrical amperage if I'd asked.

“Yolanda,” I said when she took a breath, “that's an amazing feat of memory. If people realized how much you know, they'd tip you better.” She brushed off the compliment and looked away, because that's what humble, service-oriented people do.

And suddenly I was miles away, thinking about long-term care, and the many Yolandas I'm privileged to know — people with a depth and range of skill and training the public almost never gets to see.

In the past 15 years of writing about this profession and working in it, I've met a lot of great people on the front lines of resident care and service, and can credibly make some informed observations. These people are extraordinarily good at what they do, know almost everything about everything, would do almost anything for anyone, and still think they're nothing special.  

Left to their own inclinations against self-promotion, these Yolandas will generally tend to trivialize their skills and brush off their accomplishments, whether in words and body language. And all too often as a result, their extraordinary talents, experience and knowledge go unrecognized and uncelebrated.

If you're an administrator or anyone in a position of long-term care leadership, I hope you're talking up these folks every chance you get. A facility tour is just one of many great opportunities to highlight your staff, to pause for a moment to single out their many areas of strength and specialty, or to tell an anecdote that encapsulates their compassion and commitment.

From med aides and maintenance workers to rehab and administration professionals, people would view the long-term care workforce more positively, with more respect and admiration — if they had a clearer picture of just how much you know and care.

That's one of the best lessons I could ever pass along.

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in Humor Writing in the 2014 Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former SNALF.com at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.

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Things I Think

Things I Think is written by longtime industry columnist Gary Tetz, who resides in Portland, OR. Since his debut with SNALF.com at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.

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