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Abandon ‘the help’ and recognize your staff

January 18, 2012
by Mitchell S. Elliott, AIA
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Over the holidays, my family watched the movie, The Help. What an amazing film. It was too easy to forget how prevalent racism was in the early 1960s as depicted in this movie, set in Jackson, Miss. My teenage boys were shocked at how “the help” were treated in those days.

The movie caused me to ask some questions about our world. Even though the movie focused on race and discrimination, my thoughts extended to the “serving” positions within our caregiving teams. How do we treat our CNAs, housekeepers, cooks and laundry folks in our nursing facilities? How do our residents and their families treat these team members? Does our care team get talked at or down to, rather than communicated with?

As I thought beyond verbal communication, I wondered how else we may be devaluing our team members who work so closely with residents. From a design standpoint, consider these questions:

What do our environments communicate to our team members? Do our break rooms provide a life-giving venue for respite during a challenging day of caring and serving? Is the staff parking lot well lit for the night shift as they arrive at 9 p.m. each evening? Is the employee entrance as nice as the main entrance? Have we made available the equipment necessary for them to provide amazing quality care?

As in The Help, maybe we should be asking our team members how they feel about their jobs. We need to measure employee engagement. Employee satisfaction surveys are a great start, but they may just identify the challenges we face. My InnerView tells us that the closer a team member is to serving the resident, the less fulfilled they are with their job.

Wow—what a sad statement. Maybe we haven’t progressed beyond the 1960s as far as we think?

We do have a choice in how we treat our direct caregiving team members. We can create work environments that enable friendships. Encouragement and recognition can be the norm. We can listen to opinions and gather feedback. We can provide opportunities to learn and grow … or we can treat them as “the help.”

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MElliott

@MitchellElliott

www.vetterhealthservices.com

As Chief Development Officer, Elliott serves on the Executive Leadership Team for Vetter Health...