Dr. Eleanor Barbera

Ahhh. A new year. It’s time for a fresh start, the chance to take life in a different direction.

Many of my friends have remarked to me that they want more focus on family and friends this year. They’d like to achieve a better balance between work and home.

On the job in long-term care, perhaps the goal is to tackle the staff turnover problem or increase profitability. Or maybe the hope is that resident, staff and family satisfaction ratings will be better in 2018 or that this might be the year to achieve a five-star rating.

The common thread between these goals is deepening the attention paid to the people in our personal and business lives.

When staff members don’t feel valued, or inspired by the mission of the company, turnover increases, making it virtually impossible to have high satisfaction scores and five-star ratings. Repeatedly recruiting and training new staff cuts into profit margins and damages worker morale.

To turn things around in one’s personal life, conscious decisions can be made around limiting time on electronics or choosing to fill the new calendar year with events that connect loved ones. At work, changes can occur by prioritizing the way staff members are treated and revamping the culture of the company, altering the way people interact.

Whatever our roles in LTC, there are steps each of us can take to enhance the way we treat each other and to have a positive impact on workplace culture.

•  Reevaluate mission and culture. Readers in a position to revise the organizational customs as a whole might enlist experienced guides in the process. A consulting and coaching company such as Drive, with which I’m affiliated, evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of a healthcare organization and provides ongoing support to meet goals throughout the culture change process. As a Drive team member notes in this article on Creating and Sustaining a Strong Culture, follow-through is essential. A consulting team can ensure that bumps in the road don’t become dead ends.

•  Investigate known culture change programs. Thankfully, there are many people in our field who have undertaken the daunting task of creating a more gratifying long-term care environment while still following regulations. The new year is an excellent time to take a class with the Pioneer Network or the Eden Alternative, or to learn more about The Green House Model at their 1/9 webinar.

•  Promote kindness. If your job in long-term care doesn’t allow you the opportunity to change the overall organizational framework, you can still be an important influence on others with whom you interact by focusing on kindness. I heard a story over the holidays that featured two women who performed a kind action daily for a year and an organization called Think Kindness that has a mission “to inspire measurable acts of kindness in schools and communities around the world.” I’m not saying I wouldn’t have normally passed along a message that somehow ended up on my answering machine from a relative of a resident, but I definitely had that story in mind when I took that action. I’d like to think that my kindness toward the resident positively affected her feelings about the facility and contributed to a more caring culture.

•  Be steadfast. As consulting psychologist and team member, I’d characterize my role as “a rock in times of turbulence.” I try to be pleasant, upbeat, reliable, discrete and efficient. I offer hugs to (female) staff members who need them. All of us, from the housekeeper to the CEO, can make a positive contribution to organizational culture by being aware of how we present ourselves to our coworkers. If we can’t be especially kind, we can be steadfast.

Each LTC facility is a microcosm of the world. We may not be able to change the universe, but perhaps we can improve our work world, our unit or team or someone else’s day.

And now, in the spirit of work-life balance, I’m going to get off my computer and rejoin my family.

Eleanor Feldman Barbera, PhD, author of The Savvy Resident’s Guide, is an Award of Excellence winner in the  Blog Content category of the APEX Awards for Publication Excellence program. She also is the Gold Medalist in the Blog-How To/Tips/Service category of the American Society of Business Publication Editors Midwest Regional competition. A speaker and consultant with over 20 years of experience as a psychologist in long-term care, she maintains her own award-winning website at MyBetterNursingHome.com.