Like laundry operations and building security, transportation is one of those elements of senior living communities that residents often take for granted; of course, transport services will function dependably and seamlessly. But the managerial challenges can be daunting-from logistics and scheduling to staffing and vehicle maintenance.
Susan Davis, executive director of The Peaks Senior Living Community, Flagstaff, Arizona, deals with these challenges on a daily basis. Nestled at the base of the San Francisco Peaks mountain range, The Peaks is a vibrant CCRC surrounded by breathtaking scenery. The non-profit partnership, formed by Northern Arizona Healthcare and Intergenerational Living & Healthcare, was built on the campus of the Museum of Northern Arizona. The Goodman Group manages operations.
The Peaks' fleet of vehicles includes a town car, 15-passenger van, and a bus, serving 102 assisted living and 40 independent living residents, and up to 58 skilled nursing facility (SNF) residents. In addition to ferrying seniors to their myriad medical appointments and transporting discharged hospital patients to the SNF, the service provides weekly runs to local retail outlets and cultural and recreational venues, including the symphony and a casino. For residents requiring daily dialysis treatment, transportation is augmented on weekends with an outsourced service.
All this activity demands a highly organized staff and dependable drivers. The Peaks' two dedicated drivers are managed by the lead receptionist, who is also a CDL-certified driver. The drivers are responsible for the vehicles' maintenance “and they're kind of picky,” says Davis. “They have their favorite vehicles and like to take care of them.” The Peaks contracts with a local garage for regular service.
Safety-focused, friendly, and reliable drivers are critical to the transportation function, but beyond those basics, Davis looks for drivers who connect with residents on a more personal level. “Our drivers really enjoy what they do,” Davis says. “They'll call the residents by name and have a sweater and hat or blanket ready for them on cold mornings. They aren't just doing a job, they actually care about the residents. And if somebody's late for an appointment or they aren't on the schedule, the drivers work hard to accommodate them.”
And residents at The Peaks are not afraid to speak up if displeased with the service. “They're vocal if they're late for a doctor's appointment, they're vocal if they don't know what to expect,” Davis says. “Communication is key. They rely on the driver to be their communicator. They trust their driver to get them where they need to be. And the drivers are busy all day-sometimes starting as early as 7 a.m. and working until after 5 p.m.”
“Our drivers really enjoy what they do,” Davis says. “They'll call the residents by name and have a sweater and hat or blanket ready for them on cold mornings. They aren't just doing a job, they actually care about the residents.
Finding good drivers “was tough,” says Davis. “When interviewing [candidates] you have to find someone with a lot of patience. Anyone can drive a bus but not just anyone can be a driver-at least not in our industry because being a driver is so much more; you're handling confidential information, you're making sure the resident is safe, you're often communicating for the resident with the doctor's office or the hospital. We hire drivers based on their experience and when we interview them we really try to elicit whether they're people persons. You can tell if they smile, if they're enthusiastic about what they do, and when they talk more about the passengers than the driving.
“Our residents love our drivers and you can tell that the drivers love what they do, too.” LTL
For more information on The Peaks Senior Living Community, visit www.ThePeaks.org.
Long-Term Living 2011 March;60(3):58-59