Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC

One of my favorite holiday movies is “Elf.” A movie about a human, who is raised at the North Pole as an elf. When Buddy, our main character, finds out he is human (an absolutely hysterical scene), he decides to go to New York City to meet his human dad, who did not know he existed.

Different things play out and Buddy finds himself at Gimbels Department Store, in awe of all the shiny Christmas displays and winds up being mistaken for one of the “Santa’s workshop” toy department employees. 

Next thing you know, Buddy is standing around with this huge goofy grin on his face and the boss asks him why he is smiling. Buddy says, “Smiling is my favorite.” His boss says, “Make work your favorite. Work is your new favorite.”

OK, so why am I referencing “Elf” and his new favorite? Well, I just attended the American Health Care Association conference. During an education session on serious mental illness in long-term care, speaker John Hobday was presenting a care approach. But one of the things that stood out to me that applies to any population we care for was this: He said, “Make chitchat your job.” He was explaining that in your approach to your residents, start with making small talk to engage that person.

How many times do staff go into a room, task-oriented and, well, just do the task without really talking to the resident? The med nurse going in, giving the meds and basically just saying, “Here’s your meds,” often not even explaining what the meds are for. Or housekeeping goes into the room and just cleans without ever speaking to the resident. And while I do believe our nursing assistants are the best at speaking with our residents, are they truly engaging them? 

So, I am going to go a step further than Mr. Hobday and say, “Make chitchat your new favorite.” If you can know just one thing about that resident, talk about it. (A Life-Story Questionnaire is a great way to do this.) Or just mention something about your ride over that morning, or something you saw on the way, or an upcoming event. In other words, treat the resident like you would anyone else — talk to them.

So, in the spirit of Buddy the elf, make smiling and chitchat your favorite! 

Just keeping it real,

Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, Senior Director of Clinical Innovation and Education for Mission Health Communities, LLC and an APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real-life long-term care nurse. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates. 

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.