Renee Kinder
Renee Kinder

Who has mentored you in your long-term care career?

Bigger ask: Who has inspired you?

Finally, what are you doing to lift others up daily?

Sometimes those who lift us up are unlikely sidekicks, partners in crime, and advocates in our lifelong learning experience.

Over the past month, I have had the opportunity to cross paths with individuals who helped to shape my attitude and approach to care and have, as a result, caused me to reflect on what the therapy industry as a whole is doing to lift up the next generation of long-term care providers.

Who is on my list, you ask?

A COTA, a rehab nurse, a CNA, and an SLP/COO.

Mentor #1 — Anne Marie, COTA and patient advocacy warrior

When I think back to my entry into the long-term care professional, I recall, as I am sure we all can, the individuals who supported my integration but most importantly my patient voice in the field.

Within my first two days on the job, I experienced the defeat of being denied for the required pre-authorized Medicaid process. I was first shocked, and then felt broken. I may have even teared up a bit. I mean, this patient is choking, they need me … how in the world did the Medicaid nurse not approve a plan written by a speech language pathologist?

Coming out of a university program into the real world was a total shock.

Enter, Ann Marie, a fiery, wild spirited certified occupational therapy assistant.

She worked long hours, she knew all of her patients and their life stories, and that day she advised me to march my new grad-self back to the administrator’s office and speak to the Medicaid nurse.

“It’s your job, Renee, to stand up for these patients. Now go tell them what you clearly did not have outlined on paper.”

“Go. NOW!”

And so I did, and I was terrified, but I learned such a valuable lesson that day. And though I have no idea where Anne Marie is these days, I do think about her and that day often.

Her supportive mentorship also continued in the months ahead and involved advocating for patients even when their wishes were different from their families’ … and we all know that can be a very slippery slope.

Mentor #2 — Liz, Rehab Nurse, friend, and believer in having a strong regulatory foundation

Liz was an individual who served to get me the regulatory guidance I needed early in my career and later pushed me outside of my comfort zone to pursue educating others in the field.

“What is the appropriate code for that?”

“What is the rule for this?”

She encouraged me by teaching me the foundations, and making me a Medicare Benefit Policy Manual guru and always keeping an up to date RAI Manual close by.

She later gently guided me into the world of public speaking, moving beyond anxiety by standing beside me as a guide and allowing me to have the confidence to spread this knowledge to others.

To her I am forever grateful.

Mentor #3 — Gloria, Restorative Nurse, and get-it-girl guru

Gloria always wears a smile, she has an infectious spirit, and she was by my side when I returned to full time work after growing a family.

We all need a little Gloria in our lives and for the new mothers in our field we need to serve a little Gloria goodness to the world. She was a child from a large family, and she was always relatable to my desire to have a large family while also working, no guilt attached.

She didn’t teach me how to be an SLP, but she encouraged me on how to be a working mother without fault even for not taking the typical maternity leave time.

Finally, Gloria has no shame in looking good during the process. I see her yearly now during holiday party season. This year I enjoyed her homemade egg rolls and her bag of makeup goodie samples, and I breathed a sigh of relief as she stayed late to help me clean my home after a large gathering.

Mentor #4 — Clare, SLP and COO, and a voice to do the right thing

Who knew an SLP could be the COO of a large rehab company? Beyond my wildest dreams when I first entered this field, did I think I would be working alongside such an individual.

What is the secret?

I am still learning and soaking it in, but first and foremost what I can say is that having the mantra that providing the right care clinically should always guide your decisions is a good place to start.

It’s never wrong to do the right thing.

Consider: Who can you guide and lift up today? Guide through a difficult clinical decision? Support in advocating for patient care?

Mentorship — it is important not to only reflect on those that have guided our long-term care path but also to consider what path we can help pave for others.

Renee Kinder, MS, CCC-SLP, RAC-CT, is Vice President of Clinical Services for Encore Rehabilitation and is the Silver Award winner in the 2018 American Society of Business Publishing Editors competition for the Upper Midwest Region in the Service/How To Blogs category. Additionally, she serves as Gerontology Professional Development Manager for the American Speech Language Hearing Association’s (ASHA) gerontology special interest group, is a member of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine community faculty, and is an advisor to the American Medical Association’s Relative Value Update Committee (RUC) Health Care Professionals Advisory Committee (HCPAC).