Things I Think: Out of control, loving it

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Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

Pretty much any sense of personal control — in your schedule, to-do list or even life sometimes. That's what you'll have to give up to be a great, and happy, long-term care facility administrator.

I've never been one myself, but that's what I'm told by people who are. To survive in the profession, the belief that you're actually in charge of your tasks or time must be offered as a willing sacrifice for the privilege of serving vulnerable seniors.

It's a worthy tradeoff, but a challenging one. If you're used to being the puppet-master of your own existence, pulling all the strings in perfect synchronicity, this might not be your ideal career choice.

I recently built some garden boxes and painstakingly planted precious little seeds in straight little rows. Overnight, renegade squirrels came in and dug it all up. That's what it's like to be an administrator. Whether it's an angry family member, a resident fall, an employee squabble or a complaint surveyor at your door, the squirrels are always out there, ready to scramble your elegant master plan.

“How much control do you really have in your job?” I asked a successful administrator, who laughed way too hard for way too long.

She estimates 25% of a typical day is controllable. The rest is triage because she never knows what's next. Sure, she could close the door and shut out the chaos, but that's not the job — or at least, not the way she thinks it should be done.

So she puts gloves on and helps the CNA. She answers the call light. She won't walk past anyone who needs something. She sees and then she does. She models how caring for people isn't remotely predictable, and everything is everyone's job.

That's what being an administrator is, and the best ones wouldn't have it any other way. They simply learn to relax and embrace that oft-quoted Zen mantra, “I don't mind what happens."

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in Humor Writing in the 2014 American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) awards program.