In a long-term care profession rife with unsung heroes, women have usually been the unsung-est of them all. Then five years ago, McKnight’s stepped into the void and created the Women of Distinction awards, and the program has since unleashed an annual deluge of deserving honorees.

The company for which I selflessly labor had two winners this year, and I was privileged to join them in Chicago last week for what turned out to be a fantastic award ceremony. A special energy bounced off the walls of that hotel ballroom packed full of award recipients and their posses of adoring celebrants. 

Each year the event seems to get bigger and better, and though the dress was formal, the mood was entirely party. The winners were asked to choose their own deafening walk-up music, which included Girl on Fire, I’m Every Woman, Unstoppable and even the Star Wars Theme, and they each danced to the stage through a gauntlet of fist-pumps and high-fives.   

Talking with some of the still-glowing honorees in the aftermath of the festivities, their reaction was an expected mix of humility and solidarity with the others being honored. “I was very humbled to even be nominated, and then to be surrounded by all these great women was pretty special,” said Vicki Nordby, a Veteran VIP award winner. 

“I felt that I was representing everybody who works so hard to make each and every day meaningful for our staff and our residents,” added Amy Bucher, who won a Hall of Honor award. The evening ended with one more standing ovation recognizing the sacrifices and achievements of this elite group, and if you’ve never nominated anyone in your facility or company for a Women of Distinction award, I hope 2024 will finally be your year. 

As an aside, we all know how great it is to work alongside Women of Distinction (WODs). But have you ever traveled with them? Having just done so myself, I can now attest that the experience reveals another level of competence and leadership entirely. 

We, meaning me, the two honorees and several proud colleagues, journeyed from Portland, OR, to attend the event. Since WODs are usually decisive leaders who take initiative, and I’m a docile Canadian, I deferred to them for all major decisions relating to the trip — at least until it was time to return home. 

I’m a pathologically early airport arriver, so when one of the WODs scheduled our morning Uber from the hotel at a time I felt risked missing the flight, I rebelled and scheduled my own for half an hour earlier. To her credit, she didn’t mock me for it, but also didn’t conceal her incredulity over my decision. 

Long story short, I got to O’Hare way too early, and the rest of the group arrived with plenty of time to spare. Clearly, not abiding by the judgment of a credentialed WOD was a huge mistake, so I sheepishly asked if she felt vindicated. In typical WOD fashion, she responded, “It’s not vindication when I never doubted myself in the first place.” I’m currently seeking a needlepoint artist to preserve that bit of epic confidence and wisdom on a throw pillow.

Through it all, I learned some very important things about WODs, and how I should interact with them in the future. One, that they’re usually right. Two, that they’re almost never wrong. And three, why would I be foolish enough to question them anyway? They’re Women of Distinction. 

But I’m still not going to stop getting to the airport early, no matter what a WOD tells me. 

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a two-time national Silver Medalist and three-time regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program, as well as an Award of Excellence honoree in the APEX Awards. He’s been amusing, inspiring, informing and sometimes befuddling long-term care readers worldwide since the end of a previous century. He is a writer and video producer for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.

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.