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‘people Making a Difference in LTC’ announced

September 1, 2009
by root
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Receiving due recognition may seem uncommon for many in long-term care. That's why Long-Term Living gave readers the opportunity, via our Web site (http://www.ltlmagazine.com), to nominate and vote for exceptional employees and leaders in the field today.

We received many nominations-and a few thousand votes-for the following people you decided are truly making a difference in the ranks of Administrators, DONs, CNAs, Ancillary Staff, and “Other” (including consultants, lobbyists, and friends of the industry). Whether they are managing staff, developing facility meal plans, or acting as the face and voice of an aging community, long-term care workers and advocates provide an important and valued service the world over. These stories are a mere snapshot of a few of these dedicated people and, hopefully, will inspire you to recognize and acknowledge good work when you see it.

Administrator Category

Jennifer Mikula

Palm Garden of Ocala Ocala, Florida

During a job interview, Jennifer Mikula once said to a prospective employee, “Where else can you go to work every day and get as many hugs as you want?” To some people this intimate recruiting technique may seem a bit presumptuous. Within the confines of Palm Garden of Ocala, however, it's just another example of the type of award-winning culture change administrator Mikula has personally instilled.

A long-term care veteran, Mikula has 20 years professional experience in healthcare administration, including nearly 11 years at Florida's Palm Garden of Ocala, which she has helped to receive more than 20 awards-including Long-Term Living's 2008 OPTIMA award. Her culture change program, Empower with Choice, focuses on consistently addressing and upgrading dining, bathing, and activities-as well as the facility's language-with the ultimate goal of always providing choices to residents (known as ‘community members’ at Palm Garden).

“The initiative with this program was to inspire cultural transformation,” Mikula says. “Our job here is to improve the resident's quality of life. We had a vision to deinstitutionalize the physical environment, and we started by designing day spas for pampering and relaxation. We serve restaurant-style dining vs. a feeding frenzy. And we created a fun zone, which is full of activities to stimulate the senses.”

Also empowered by her program are Mikula's employees, who exist in a “leveled playing field” where they can make schedules and other decisions. “The staffing benefit is reducing employee turnover, because there's a lot of buy-in with the culture change movement,” Mikula emphasizes. “They enjoy coming to work because they have a voice in the day-to-day assignments and workload.”

After being nominated by several staff and residents for the People Making a Difference award, Mikula admits to feeling “blessed”-so much so that she has a sign above her door reading that exact word, right next to one that says, “Our residents do not live in our facilities, we work in their homes.”

The inspiration for this “culture change journey” came about four years ago when Mikula visited a seminar on the topic. She returned to her home, sat around the table with her family, and decided it was her duty to write for a grant to help her begin this culture change transformation. The state of Florida cut her a check for $66,000 to jump-start her vision.

“But it's not about the money,” Mikula reassures. “The will is more important than the way. There is no magic bullet. You can go out there and start with just changing the language in your building. You don't have to call them ‘wings,’ you could call them ‘Cypress Lane’ or ‘Palmer Place.’ You don't have to call them ‘residents,’ you can call them ‘members,’ ‘guests’ or ‘elders.’ It's the simple things you can start with. The time is right and it is the right thing to do, so have a true commitment and you can improve the quality of life for your nursing home residents.”


Candace Gautreaux

Regency Place Nursing and Rehabilitation Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Sister Anne Kull

Vincentian Home Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

DON Category

Ida Sullivan, RN

Banks Jackson Commerce (BJC) Nursing Facility Commerce, Georgia

More than 30 years ago, Ida Sullivan began her healthcare career as a CNA in a hospital and nursing home, along with another job. Because of her love for her residents and dedication to healthcare she continued her pursuit of a healthcare career first as a licensed practical nurse, and then completed her studies for a BSN degree. Today, as director of nursing at BJC Nursing Home in Commerce, Georgia, she leads, teaches, and inspires her staff to provide the highest level of care for their residents.

“When I decided to become an LPN, I had to do some of my training in the nursing home environment. During my first year as an LPN, I realized that this is where I wanted to be,” Sullivan says. But Ida Sullivan didn't stop there. Her next goal was to become a registered nurse. “I pursued that degree because any time I tried to change anything at the nursing home I was told ‘Go get your RN and maybe you'll be able to do something about it.’”

But being an RN wasn't enough for Sullivan. “I still couldn't accomplish everything I wanted, so I became an administrator.” She then worked for a company as director of nursing that gave her the opportunity to work with and train caregivers in four states. “I keep working for change in how our elders are cared for,” she states.