Workforce engagement: What the long-term care sector can learn from the world of hospitality

Skilled nursing operator shares lessons learned to help motivate and retain staff

By Medline Newsroom Staff | January 6, 2021

The words “follow the golden rule” may bring upon flashbacks of elementary school, but for skilled nursing homeowner Nick Vangel, it is something he remembers to practice daily as he leads more than 1,000 employees across Meadowbrook Rehabilitation in Illinois.

Prior to the pandemic, conservative estimates of turnover across the long-term care sector ranged from 45 to 66 percent, but the issue is even more significant today as frontline caregivers become medically vulnerable to COVID-19 and instead decide to leave.

Across Meadowbrook’s three facilities, Vangel and co-owner Robert Jafari focus on empowering staff through a “we’re all in this together” mentality and making sure there’s open lines of communication across all teams. As a result, the organization has maintained a staff retention rate of nearly 90% since May 2020.

Vangel has more than 30 years of experience in the long-term care industry and brings with him valuable experience from owning and operating a restaurant for more than 25 years.

“I’ve been in the workforce for over 50 years and one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that no role is too small. Every single person in our facilities plays an essential role in the success of our business. We try to lead by example, which means eliminating as many barriers as possible between leadership and staff. We are grateful they chose a career at our organization so we always want to find ways to make them feel special,” Vangel expressed.

As nursing home operators continue to struggle to engage their workforce, Vangel shared with the Medline Newsroom key learnings from the hospitality industry that he and Jafari incorporate into their leadership style to help keep staff motivated and make Meadowbrook feel like a special place to work.

Simple gestures go a long way

It is the little things that can make an employee feel special, such as asking how their family is doing or getting to know their favorite hobbies. Meadowbrook administrators are encouraged to visit every department on a regular basis to say hello to staff, if nothing else.

Vangel shares, “While this year has been particularly unordinary, we didn’t want to lose that personal connection. Because I am not able to physically step inside our buildings, I travel to our three facilities, stand outside and wave to staff through the windows. It is a simple gesture to remind them that I am here for them and am thankful for their dedication.”

Go the extra mile for employees

The pandemic has also forced the organization to think more creatively to engage employees. Meadowbrook has always stood by the motto, “Is there something I can do for you?” and in 2020, their employees’ biggest needs were to obtain essential PPE. Vangel and Jafari quickly got to work to provide staff with these essential supplies. Within a few short days at the start of the pandemic,  Meadowbrook’s facilities had access to dozens of cloth face masks and isolation gowns.

“Robert had people sewing and was overnighting PPE to our facilities. He and Nick never gave up on trying to figure out where they could source items,” shares Nancy Hartman, vice president of clinical operations for Meadowbrook.

Transparency played a key role. By communicating the status of supplies with every department and position across the organization, it created a sense of inclusiveness at a time when everyone has felt vulnerable and helped Meadowbrook employees feel like they are part of a large family.

Help other teams within the organization adopt your leadership style

Teams at Meadowbrook, regardless of the department and its size, are embracing the leadership’s “we’re all in this together” mentality. The organization’s Naperville, Ill. facility, Meadowbrook Manor, received first place in Medline’s inaugural EVS Superstars Award. The honor, which drew nominations from more than 100 facilities across the country, recognizes the facility for its ability to keep staff engaged about making infection prevention a top priority.

The EVS team plays a valued role in providing that sense of home, and Meadowbrook residents get to know the staff as they clean and care for their rooms. They strike up conversations and build lasting relationships.

“We have some of our most consistent staffing with the housekeeping team,” says Jeremy Jenich, Meadowbrook Manor assistant administrator. “I feel that it’s rare for long-term care to have that longevity, and it is an absolute testament to the leadership style of our EVS director Victor Vasquez and his assistant Rosanna.”

Meadowbrook Manor’s EVS team will be featured in the March issue of Medline’s Threads magazine. Subscribe to the magazine to learn more about their team’s critical role during the pandemic, and how to nominate a team for the 2021 EVS Award.

Categories: Caregiver Readiness

Medline Newsroom Staff

Medline Newsroom Staff

Medline's newsroom staff researches and reports on the latest news and trends in healthcare.

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