by Lori Porter, NAHCA Contributor

If someone were to ask me to pick one word that best describes any success that I’ve had, it’s easy for me to come up with that one word. It’s perseverance. There have been a lot of potholes, a lot of roadblocks, a lot of failures, roadblocks every step of the way on this journey. When I first became a nursing home administrator, most of you know me to be a high school dropout, so becoming a nursing home administrator was a challenge in itself. I’m not that bright. I had a lot of hurdles to overcome. Not to mention when you work in nursing homes, we’re supposed to be teams, but we’re the furthest thing from a team. I know this because when I played basketball in junior high and high school, I learned what perseverance was. It’s sticking to it and it’s staying after it, and I understood that when you had a team, you celebrated TOGETHER. When I’d shoot and make a basket, the team would cheer, the team would pat me on the back. They didn’t say, “ball hog”. That’s not the way teams win.

When I told my team of nursing assistants, my co-workers… I didn’t want them to know I was going to become a nursing home administrator, because I knew exactly what would happen. They wouldn’t celebrate. They wouldn’t cheer me on. They were going to say, “oh you’re going to go be a hotshot administrator now are you” and talk about me behind my back.

One of the characteristics of perseverance is that we have to persist no matter what. I mentioned I wanted to be a nursing home administrator and I wanted to be one more than anything at that time. I just thought this is what I am called to do. This is what I want to do. And sometimes as soon as you make a decision about what you want to do, that’s when the roadblocks and the obstacles keep presenting themselves to where it seems like everything’s working against me. I can’t be this, “I’m a high school dropout”. I can’t be this, “I don’t read well, I don’t spell well”. But there’s also outside influences that we take in internally and determine that, well this isn’t going to work. This isn’t going to be, I’m not going to be successful at this.

I’ll never forget one time I was called to the office and was written up twice for my negative attitude. So, in the first few years I was a nurse’s aide. When you heard, Lori Porter please come to the administrator’s office, everybody knew because I was in trouble. Oh, what have I done? What’s Lori done? Whatever! My last two years as a nursing assistant I was rock solid. I had a life plan. I knew where I was going, and I knew how I was going to get there, and I was going to persist no matter what. Well those are easier things to say than do.

One day I got called in the office and Linda, the administrator asked me, “What is it you want to do when you grow up”. I said I want to be in a nursing home administrator just like you. She got up out of her chair, came across the room, put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Oh honey, you’re just not administrator material. I have a part-time activities assistant position open, and that’s why I called you in. I thought you might want to move up to that position”. I said, “No ma’am. If I can’t be an administrator, I’d rather take care of my residents”. For a while her power and influence affected me. I ALLOWED it to affect me. I walked out of there thinking, well she’s an administrator and she would know whether I was administrator material. They say you teach that best which you had the hardest time learning, and I was really thinking about just throwing in the towel. I can’t be an administrator. I can’t. That is why I finished school. I was about to give up when I drove into work one afternoon about a month or two later, and the trunk was up on Linda’s car and it had some boxes in it. I walked in the nursing home and asked my charge nurse “what’s going on”? She said that the regional manager came and fired Linda today. Well lo and behold, maybe SHE wasn’t administrator material.

There will be roadblocks, challenges, and people who do not believe in you, but you must persist no matter what you’ve got, and be ready to endure some discomfort. Anything worth having is worth being uncomfortable. You and I together, along with all of our other NAHCA members and seniors across this country, if we will endure a little discomfort along the way, we will achieve our mission. You and I are worth it, and that’s why we have to be willing to endure some discomfort to persevere and be successful.

Don’t ever be afraid to request help. I will not make it through this day without asking multiple people for their help. I am not the smartest. I never will be. I need to ask questions and ask help from anybody and everybody who can help advance the mission of NAHCA.

It’s easy to get burnt out and jaded, but you must remind yourself of what your core values and beliefs are and hold true to those. One of the things that has always been very helpful to me was to envision the win and vision triumph. What does a triumph look like? Whatever the obstacles are, don’t focus on those. Focus on the end result… the WIN. What does the win look like for you? Envision it!

We must improve ourselves. If there is something that holds you back that you can fix, fix it. You can’t expect someone else to do it for you. You must do it yourself. Mine was primarily my attitude. I am not an intelligent person. I’m not book smart, but I have learned how to adjust my attitude. Do not quit! You’re worth it. The work we do is worth it, and the residents you serve are worth it.

Enjoy and celebrate every tiny bit of progress. If you wait for the end result, you get burnout before you get there. You’ve got to visualize this… what does quality care mean to you? When you climb that hurdle and you scale that problem, don’t wait until the new house is built to celebrate the fact that you saved a hundred dollars towards it. Celebrate every single win in your life!

One of the reasons in long term care we see such burnout is because we’re not celebrating the wins. We’re waiting until the annual survey to come around to tell if we’ve won or lost, and that’s where job burnout sets in. That’s where getting jaded sets in, because we can’t wait a year to see if we’ve made a difference. When you’ve assisted a resident in getting their life back, THAT IS SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE.

Let’s recap perseverance. Persist no matter what. Never hesitate to ask for help. Hold on to your beliefs and value. Envision the win and vision triumph. Consistently keep at it. Embrace adversity as your teacher and refuse to give up.