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How to "Make It" In Healthcare

from L to R: Fanta Camara, Bob Speelman, Rod Alvarez

June 23, 2017
NOTE:The following story is from the blog of Bob Speelman, owner of Atlas Healthcare Solutions. Villa Angela is a proud member of the Atlas Healthcare Solutions team. Each week Bob visits one of his facilities working as a nursing assistant to better learn his company motto - "Supporting Superior Care."

Yesterday, I had the privilege of learning from two nursing assistants at Villa Angela Care Center, with over 50 years of experience as nursing assistants! Villa Angela is a unique facility in Columbus, Ohio caring for residents with a wide range of acuity and needs. It was neat being back at a facility where I used to be the administrator, but I didn't realize I'd leave feeling encouraged about my own abilities as a nursing assistant, as well as feeling excited about the health, direction, and culture of Atlas Healthcare Solutions.

One of the nursing assistants I worked with, Rod Alvarez, has been a nursing assistant for 35 years! In his twenty years of working the floors at Villa Angela, and caring for his many residents, he’s never called off for a single shift. That’s simply something you can’t fathom these days. His attendance is surely impressive, but it’s nothing compared to the love, compassion, commitment, integrity and leadership he shows to the residents and employees at Villa Angela every day. Rod is the real deal. He’s also 71 years old!

After working with Rod, I can promise you he outworks most twenty-year-old employees. Rod moved to America from Belize and started in California as a nursing assistant making $2 an hour. He eventually made his way to Ohio, and ultimately to Villa Angela. Rod said he loves Villa Angela, “it pays my bills, buys my food, and has made me who I am.” Perhaps why Rod hasn’t called off from work in twenty years is because caregiving at Villa Angela has become a part of his very identity. He even met his wife at Villa Angela, a nursing assistant who is now retired after several years of caring for residents.

Fanta Camara has been at Villa Angela for 16 years and works on Villa Angela’s highest acuity unit, which serves residents needing skilled rehab, tracheostomy, and ventilator care. However, Fanta is the calm in the midst of the storm. Nothing phases her. She has an incredible peace and professional manner about her. She was a great teacher, explaining everything we did, and why we were doing it. The Nurses and STNA’s on her unit worked together like a well-oiled machine, helping each other out, and constantly communicating what was needed to make the unit run smoothly.

When we were having lunch, and discussing what can be done to make life better for the nursing assistants and reduce turnover, both of them said something that helped me out more than they know. Each of them believe that you either have a heart for caring for people or you don’t. They believe the caregivers that stick around are passionate about care; that it’s part of who they are.

I left Villa Angela smiling because I just witnessed another part of the Atlas team that makes me so proud to be doing what we are doing. But also smiling because I realized that I just might make it through this journey after all. To be honest, when I was planning this STNA journey I was a bit timid. Okay, that’s an understatement- I was downright worried. I didn’t know if I would pass my STNA test. I didn’t know how I would do in clinical practice. I didn’t know how I would do with providing resident care. I knew that I could handle overseeing operations for a healthcare company, but I wasn’t sure how it would go providing basic healthcare services to people myself. However, in that moment, reflecting on the words of Rod and Fanta, I realized that I’m going to make it. Furthermore, I was reminded that Atlas is going to make it. Why? Because just like Rod and Fanta said, our hearts are centered in caring. Things are constantly changing with Medicaid, Medicare, hospitals, and healthcare in general, but the basics never really change – if we focus every day on working together to give the absolute best care to our residents, everything else will work out just fine.

There’s this phrase that is taught to every future nursing home administrator – “Lead by Walking Around.” It’s good advice. It means get out of your office, away from Excel spreadsheets, and go find out what’s going on in your facility. While it’s good advice, I’d like to offer a slight variant to administrators, CEOs, and owners- “Lead by listening to your people and loving your residents.” If you can do that, you just might make it. Thank you Rod and Fanta for providing me with another incredible experience.

Bob Speelman, STNA

Bob's Blog


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