by Lori Porter, NAHCA Contributor

Long term care is one of the most regulated businesses in the world, and I want to make sure you understand what I’m saying. I’m not saying health care is. I’m saying long term health care skilled nursing is the most regulated medical field. They say there’s no “I” in team. Well I’ll subscribe to that. But I also think that if each and every “I” you meet and each of the “I’s” aren’t doing everything within their power to protect, honor and care for those in our charge, then we simply are falling short of being the greatest profession.

NAHCA does not want to perpetuate a workforce. You hear Workforce! Workforce! Workforce! NAHCA is about developing a Careforce. I don’t want you thinking where you are today is where you work. I want you thinking today, I’m at a place where I am practicing my craft, my skills, my excellence, my expertise. I am in a place of humanitarian value making me one of the greats of this nation.

Certainly, I’ve lived most of my life without money. I know that money rates right up there with oxygen. They say it is everything. But boy it sure is close and you can live easier with it than without it. We’ve got to get rid of the whole money discussion. Money has nothing to do with our value.

The Power of One. Let’s think about all the things that a single caregiver, a single nursing assistant, assisted living caregiver, hospice and CMA. Wherever you’re coming from, what is the power of one? Many of you’ve heard me talk about Stella Parrish, one of my mentors through the years. She was a CNA when I was a CNA. She was much older than me and she straightened me out. She’s the one that improved my negativity. So because of Stella Parrish, a little woman in the break room in Anderson, Missouri, a town of about a thousand… She’s the ONE person who stood up to me in the break room and said, “this has got to change”. And you know what. That’s the power of one. Because of that ONE individual, there is now the National Association of Health Care Assistants. Because of that ONE individual, in this entire nation, there is now a NAHCA, and has been for 25 years. Stella saved my career and I got to go on and become a nursing home administrator, a regional manager and all kinds of opportunities out of the power of one.

Now what’s your power? What have you got the power to do? We already know that we’re fundamental to the quality of care in the life our residents receive. The list goes on and on. Resident satisfaction and family satisfaction. We touch every piece of the operation.

Why would you practice such a gift of caring for others? If it’s a place you can’t embrace, it is because you don’t even understand what it is. I became a nursing home administrator and I’ll tell you the day I understood it was the first day I started and I had the shock of my life because I went there after eight years of being a nurse’s aide. I’m going to run this building like a nurse said it should be run. And guess what. The facility got shut down by the state my first year. So apparently I didn’t know everything and I still don’t.

Who’s the first to suffer when census goes down? Our hours get cut. Who has a vested interest. Why are our facilities across this country having to pay high dollars to marketing companies? You can’t sell a nursing home bed by marketing. You can sell a nursing home bed by understanding the power of one. These are people’s lives. I know they are. And for us to give them the best care possible it’s going to require you to understand a bigger picture about the profession. And we can’t survive in an us versus them mentality.

Do you know how many times I fought with management and got written up? I spent 10 years doing all that for nothing. We’ve got to QUIT perpetuating that old model and start embracing one another as one team, so that we can really meet the responsibility of driving quality and providing quality to those we serve. Why would we take bets on how long someone will last? I did that before I understood the big picture. Who suffers most when we work with less than what we have budgeted for the day? I know you said the residents, but that’s not true. It’s you! When we have a call, and all the nurse aides kick it in gear, we help each other out. We work together. We pull together as a team.

The residents loved it because we were all having fun. We were kicking in gear and we were working 10 times harder. Most days when we’re walking around looking like we slept with a dill pickle in our mouth all night. It’s time to cheer up. Wake up, cheer up and embrace yourself, because the power of one is mighty.

Working in long term care because not everybody cares for elders. It’s hard to find people to step up to the plate in this society and care for elders. But I’ll tell you one thing. You won’t find another place with more caring and committed people. 

You have got to understand the power of one.