A pair of skilled nursing providers emerged as the top finishers in the first-ever Great Places to Work in Aging Services list, which was unveiled on Thursday. But in effect, it was the profession itself that came out the biggest winner, believes one of the rankings’ organizers.

Skilled nursing’s entrants in the top 40 list did “VERY well,” acknowledged Jacquelyn Kung, Ph.D., the CEO of Activated Insights, which led the recruiting and review of entrants’ submissions for the Great Place to Work organization.

“We’re thrilled for the SNF industry,” Kung told McKnight’s on Thursday. “In spite of all the negative news and trends, employees in some of the best workplaces are being recognized for their great work and good care for our elderly.”

The average Medicare star-rating for the 42 SNF buildings represented on the list was 4.26 (out of 5).

“This is well above the national SNF star rating, so it shows that better cultures translate into better care,” Kung noted.

Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center of Commack, NY, and Van Dyk Healthcare of Hawthorne, NJ, finished Nos. 1 and 2 among all applicants in the Aging Services category. It was the first time aging services has been featured in Fortune magazine’s popular series of workplace rankings.

Top finishers ranged from single facilities with dozens of employees up to chains with thousands of workers. Organizers said they surveyed employees at more than 2,000 facilities around the country before arriving at rankings for “senior living” and “at-home” sub-categories.

Employee-engagement survey scores were primary drivers of the findings.

“Our staff provides amazing care all day long, and it takes a heavy toll. They deserve to have someone caring for them,” explained Van Dyk President and CEO Robert Van Dyk. He noted annual Christmas feasts and gifts, as well as Thanksgiving turkeys for workers, an annual cruise around Manhattan, Friday barbecues in summer and other signs of gratitude aimed at staff members.

“But what makes our company a great place to work is not the cost of the gift or the size of the experience,” he said. “It’s the continual expression of appreciation.”

Van Dyk employees said their three skilled nursing facilities were a “great” place to work at a 91% rate, while 93% of first-place finisher Gurwin’s respondents did the same.

Full profiles, including workforce characteristics and staffing approaches, as well as response scores from staff members, for each of the top 40 senior living and top 10 “at-home” entrants can be seen by looking into the individual honorees found here.

See coverage of senior living communities on the list in our sister publication, McKnight’s Senior Living:

22 operators on new ‘Best Workplaces’ list celebrated by senior living organizations

Senior Star tops new ‘Best Workplaces’ list for senior living

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