Karen Krissinger headshot
Karen Krissinger
Karen Krissinger headshot
Karen Krissinger

The “Great Resignation” is real, and it’s happening, according to the Harvard Business Review. Baby boomers are retiring more quickly than they can be replaced, and in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a dramatic increase in employee turnover throughout the healthcare industry.

This past year, NewCourtland‘s Germantown Home in Philadelphia recognized more than 104 of 249 employees with five years or more of service. The employees stay. They show up day in and day out, shouldering the work that needs to get done.

So, what is the secret sauce to retaining staff? Is it the alignment between personal and company values, personal development or company culture? What we found was all of that and more.

For some, the ability to work in an environment specific to their needs helps them achieve their personal goals. Meet Keena Slater. She started with Germantown Home right out of high school and has been with the company for 30 years. Her responsibilities consist of anything related to the residents’ personal belongings (inventory, wash, dry, label). She calls herself a personal clothing coordinator.

“I never thought I’d work at the same company for as long as I’ve been here, let alone in the caretaker field, which I always wanted to be in. I love my job,” Ms. Slater says.

During her tenure, she met and married her husband of 27 years (who once worked for Germantown Home), advanced her education and saw herself grow into the best person she could be.

“My team has great spirit and camaraderie. We work hard together; we have cried together, but we also have our fair share of fun,” she says. “Our team culture is very supportive, and we all strive to build each other up whenever we can.” 

For others it is the “family culture.” Obviously, this has different meanings in each workplace, but at Germantown Home, the message seems to be the same: pull together and do what you must do to make sure the residents get the highest quality care.

And the residents feel it, too. They know the staff members by name, and the staff members know them, their families, and their stories, providing that special bond.

“Germantown Home is a big family,” said Nereida Cartagena, a certified nursing assistant with 22 years of service. “Everyone has a specific purpose, but when blended together, it makes something great … the sauce.”

Tamika Davis is a licensed practical nurse and has been with Germantown Home for 15 years. Her roles change as needed — charge nurse, unit manager or assistant unit manager — but her most cherished responsibility is to provide direct care for residents.

“There was a nurse that would say, we are here more than with our family, so we need to act like a family,” Ms. Davis says. “And this became especially apparent during the pandemic, we provided much needed emotional support for each other.”

At the height of the pandemic, things got real, especially for Lillie Bevins, CNA, a unit clerk with Germantown Home for more than 48 years. In all her days, she had never seen anything like it.

“The staff had to stay on top of their game to make sure everyone stayed safe”, Ms. Bevins says. “And everyone needed to play by the rules.”

Ms. Bevins’ son is a disabled veteran and a current resident on a different floor than where she worked. When Germantown Home closed its doors to visitors, she knew that meant for her, too. She didn’t see her son for several months but trusted in her co-workers that he was in good hands.

Today, Ms. Bevins is enjoying her retirement, but when asked what type of personality traits thrive the most at Germantown Home, she says that it is “people who care about themselves first. If you don’t care about yourself, you can’t care for others.”

Twenty-three years ago, Dawonda Branch started as a care nurse and is now a charge nurse with Germantown Home. This only is her second job in her career, because she loves what she does.

“Being a nurse is my dream job, because I care about people. I know at times things can get tough, but this is what I signed up for,” she says.

When asked what one thing a potential new hire could learn when reading this article, Ms. Branch says, “learn the ‘Germantown Way’. Come with open arms and an open mind. Be ready to start the day positively and safely, because safety is our ultimate goal.”

Germantown Home has 180 beds and offers state-of-the-art accommodations and specialty services for long-term, skilled and respite care. “We are a successful organization because we offer something for everyone, no matter where you are in your career stage,” says Pam Howard, vice president of healthcare for NewCourtland and executive administrator of the Germantown Home. “And because of the longevity and consistency of our employees, there is a positive impact on care, the company and its culture — all while creating a cohesive community.”  

Indeed, ongoing data reported by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and elsewhere indicate that employee retention in long-term care facilities has a substantial effect on the quality of care and outcomes that residents experience.

Karen Krissinger is founder and director of client services for Piece of Creativity Marketing Agency.

The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living guest column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.

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