A Reflection on Connection

May plays host to both National Skilled Nursing Care Week (NSNCW) and Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM). Although this planning may not be intentional, the themes of each celebrate their profession’s role in human connection. NSNCW’s theme of “Creating and Nurturing Connections” and BHSM’s theme of “Connecting People” could not be better timed to raise awareness and celebrate these distinct, yet entwined, professions.

Every member of the skilled nursing care team is a vital part of building connections within that facility. Oftentimes for residents, these settings are new and unfamiliar, leading to isolation and the potential for depression. Front-line healthcare workers have been instrumental in helping residents cultivate meaningful relationships, leading to improved comfort and quality of life. Opportunities for authentic, mutual connections present in different ways and allow for meaningful relationships between residents and staff to occur organically and naturally strengthen.  It is through these daily interactions with residents, families, and each other, that positive connections have been established and fostered. These connections are needed to create moments of joy and purpose for both staff and residents.

For the staff who provide encouraging smiles when the resident first arrives at the facility, the CNA who always remembers a resident’s favorite sweater, the social worker who holds a resident’s hand reassuringly and listens, the dietary aide who never forgets that a particular resident only likes Cornflakes for breakfast, the housekeeping staff member who pauses to discuss a resident’s predictions for this baseball season, the nurse who takes the extra time to help a resident Skype with her daughter, and the speech-language pathologist who ensures a resident is able to confidently voice their wishes during a care plan meeting – a week, or even a month of celebration simply does not feel adequate. These are the moments of creating and nurturing connections that should be celebrated daily. This month and every month, we applaud our teams for their role in connecting and linking the human spirit in facilities across the nation.

Clinicians Who Inspire – May 2022 Halen Coker

Through the Clinicians Who Inspire series, we continue to share motivation, creativity, and inspiration from clinicians in the field. This month we spoke with Halen Coker, DOR/SLP/Champion Level I Therapist at Pierremont Healthcare Center in Louisiana. Halen loves the added opportunities to communicate with family and caregivers in her role as DOR. As an SLP, she continues to expand her clinical skills by completing CEUs offered in Reliant University. She especially appreciates those courses targeting dysphagia and dementia. To target communication skills, Halen often plays various resident-preferred board and card games in a group setting. Recently, her focus has been on residents experiencing weight loss. She is working with the interdisciplinary team to brainstorm and utilize strategies to enhance the dining experience and improve mealtime intake. Halen attributes the positive vibes in the gym to the amazing team of clinicians she works with and their close collaboration. Not only do they continue to make the gym a fun and active place to be, but they also work to spread that positivity throughout the facility. She states, “this is their home, we have to make it happy.” Thank you, Halen and team, for being clinicians who inspire each other, your patients, and all your therapy peers!