COVID-19 syringe and vaccine bottle on data surface.

Appealing to its staff members’ personal values of providing service to those in need was the key to achieving a 97% staff vaccination rate — and an 83% staff booster rate — for one California senior living provider.

Los Angeles Jewish Home Chief Medical Officer Noah Marco, M.D., said the community enjoys a strong relationship of honesty, transparency and trust between staff members and leaders, as well as between employees and residents. Those relationships, along with communicating the philosophy that “it’s not all about me,” led the majority of staff members and 99% of residents to become fully vaccinated.

“We emphasized how important getting the vaccine was to protect the lives in our community,” Marco said Monday during a LeadingAge membership call. “We stress they worked here not just for the paycheck, but their job aligns with their own personal values of providing service to those in need. Getting vaccinated is the most consistent thing they could do to align with their own personal values.”

Residents’ personal values

In addition to reaffirming workers’ personal values, those relationships also helped the community secure approval of its requests to lessen some of the pandemic rules that one resident called “draconian” and “confusing.” The resident wrote a letter to community leaders saying that federal and local public health measures isolating residents “will kill the humanity within us.”

Marco shared the letter across the organization to counterbalance the task-oriented mindset that took over staff members during the pandemic, and it “reduced some of the humanity” of employees in their daily interactions with residents. 

He said he then approached the resident about sharing her letter with public health officials. The results was two-fold: the message resonated with public health officials and opened an ongoing dialogue about how decisions affect long-term care residents, and it provided the resident with a sense of purpose that had been missing for almost two year.

“When we shared with them this challenge and ongoing advocacy work with various organizations, it really did facilitate discussions with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to consider our request to lighten up some of these rules,” Marco said. “People making the decisions have to understand the voice of the patient is what we have to be a strong speaker of.”

He said he also encouraged staff to connect, communicate, listen and spend time with residents rather than just walking into a room to pass medications or perform a service or medical treatment. The effort provides residents with a sense of community, socialization and purpose, Marco said.

“Look for any opportunity to just walk in and connect with another human being,” he said. “Sit there and be there and listen and share your journey with what struggles you, as an individual or family, are going through.”

(Image credit: Andriy Onufriyenko / Getty Images)