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‘The heart and soul of our ministry’: President Dan Lindh on the inspiring role of nursing assistants

On this final day of National Nursing Assistants Week, we turn to Presbyterian Homes & Services President Dan Lindh for inspiring, uplifting words on this key role in our ministry.

PHS: What is the value of the nursing assistant role?
 
Lindh: The nursing assistant is one of the most foundational, important roles that we have, and it connects to our mission, which is to honor God by enriching the lives and touching the hearts of older adults. Unlike almost any other position, the nursing assistant is dedicated to those interactions that matter the most for older adults who need care. And the way our nursing assistants do it matters — how they interact with residents, how they show compassion, how they provide that care, how they function under stress sometimes with staffing shortages and with increased needs and, of course, under COVID while also caring for their own families.
 
It's an absolutely essential position — and the largest. We have more nursing assistants working with us and partnering in ministry than any other job category. Nursing assistants have the most influential impact on other employees as well. When a nursing assistant really engages with the people we serve, it helps everybody else around them also engage on a different level. Without that, it compounds the challenges of being really effective in mission fulfillment.

Watch the video: Dan shares a message of gratitude with nursing assistants.



PHS: What one word best describes a nursing assistant at Presbyterian Homes & Services?
 
Lindh: Bringing it down to one word is really hard because it's such a dynamic role and it impacts so many people. Some words might be: foundational, essential, anchor, culture-bearer, difference-maker, applied mission, lifegiving …. It's the heart and soul of the ministry.

Our mission is to honor God by enriching the lives and touching hearts of older adults. How people experience that and feel that missional difference is in how care is provided, which, in essence, is how a nursing assistant interacts with an older adult that we serve. It’s true that interaction and mission fulfillment is true in every other role as well. But there probably is no other role that has as much one-on-one time with every resident and touches the family members. How people experience care, how they are treated … how care is being delivered with compassion and patience and understanding … is what fulfills mission.

PHS: What is a memorable experience you had with a PHS nursing assistant?
 
Lindh: When my mom needed care, we had great caregivers and a great culture there [at GracePointe Crossing]. I like to think of it as emblematic of what happens everywhere. Before my mom died, my wife Jeannie and I would visit on the weekends and greet the nursing assistants. My mom knew all the nursing assistants by name and spoke about how comfortable she was when she knew who was there to care for her. It was their interactions and connection, but also their knowing when to pull in more people and resources from time to time or to solve problems. Those are all really memorable, and a lot of it was about the care and about getting the basics down or what I call the essentials.
 
PHS: What is PHS doing to recruit more Nursing Assistants?
 
Lindh: Well, we're doing a lot and we need to do a lot more. I think the most effective way to get more nursing assistants is from current nursing assistants. We find that individuals who are serving in that role understand what [skills and talents are needed]. And knowing their peer networks and friends, they have a really good idea about who in their network could be really good and effective in this role. We would like to encourage as much of that as we can. We feel some of the most effective, new people that we have working as nursing assistants come through [employee referrals].
 
We are also connecting with high schools and colleges to let people know about the opportunity, because it's where we find people with an aspiration for a career in clinical — whether it's to remain as a nursing assistant or to grow as a therapist, trained medication aide, licensed practical nurse, registered nurse, graduate nurse, physician assistant or physician. There is in my judgment no better experience that anybody can have than serving as a nursing assistant. So we’re growing in how do we touch base with potential future employees for that full spectrum. Whatever their journey or path, we have to connect with people, find out what path they’re on and see how we can help them on their journey.
 
Do you know someone looking for more purpose in their work? Share the good news and the many opportunities to join our team at www.preshomes.org/careers.

You might also be interested in:

Living with purpose: an interview with President Dan Lindh on 45 years of service
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Nursing assistant finds mentor who helps her soar

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