When it comes to running a program for people with brain injuries, have you ever asked yourself what background skills are the most essential for your employees? I think most of you would lean toward the traditionally trained CNA (certified nurse’s aide). But, at Intellegis, we see it differently. As I think back upon some of the very best employees I ever hired, one positive trait comes to mind. The most effective staff; the most able to earn the trust and respect of our residents have been those excelling at customer service. Now, don’t get me wrong, we definitely need the skill set of a CNA to carry out the proper care and follow up from the therapists. In fact, it is requirement for our staff to be CNA certified. But, CNA – CS = Escalation!
In our opinion, the number one, most crucial, vitally important need for a resident living in one of our homes is staff interaction. (I should say it in all caps!) Positive staff interaction is the best indicator for reduced escalation and frustration among our residents. When a resident is genuinely fond of a staff member, they are less likely to feel frustration and anger. Those emotions almost always come into play, but are less likely to occur with interaction focused staff. Think of it this way. Imagine you have a brain injury significant enough to warrant living in a community based program. Now picture a dedicated staff that cares for your every need, but doesn’t really communicate much with you or allow time for the things you want to talk about. Some staff may even be so dedicated to their care agenda that your emotional needs become an afterthought. Isn’t this what often happens in Nursing Homes where the staff to client ratio is so high that there’s no time for human interaction? In those instances, it’s not that the staff don’t truly care for the client, but rather their focus is on handling all care needs in a way that is able to get all the required things done, on time. And, in some cases, the traditional CNA does not neccessarily even have the customer service skill set. It makes sense however, because often a person pursuing work as CNA enjoys the routine of things and carrying out orders. However, there may be a stark contrast when it comes to the often abstract world of customer service when compared to the somewhat concrete world of the CNA.
Customer service, though it may be learned, is a skill most often developed by a person’s core beliefs. According to Ubuntu (African Philosophy)“There exists a common bond between us all and it is through this bond, through our interaction with our fellow human beings, that we discover our own human qualities.” In other words, the desire to interact with others in a meaningful way generally comes from people with an affection for humanity. You can spot these qualities in a job interview as evidenced by warmth, eye contact, friendliness and positive, thoughtful conversation. You’ll know when you have people with these qualities by the way you feel after the interview. It’s the difference between ‘he or she will do’ vs. I’m excited about hiring this person. A customer service oriented person genuinely cares about the person they are serving and as such doesn’t need to be admonished to talk more; interact more and show more interest.
Recently, one of my former staff (who rightfully left for a position with greater opportunity) stopped by to visit me. As he and I were talking, one of our residents came in. The resident could barely contain his excitement at seeing this person. He smiled big, gave him a heartfelt hug and asked how he was doing. Instantly you could tell that the former employee had made a lasting connection with the resident, though he hadn’t been near our facility for roughly 6 months. That is customer service in a nutshell!
In order to be successful in transitioning brain injured residents back into the community, it is required that the home environment be a home environment where people talk, share feelings and interact. Care, though vital and necessary, must be blended with a healthy dose of humanity evidenced by skillful customer service. When what the resident needs becomes the number one priority, both physical care and emotional care will be a given.
So how do you know if you have hired a person with the proper skill sets for working with the ABI/TBI population? Simple ~ how do the residents react when they see them… CNA + CS = HFR (happy and fulfilled residents)…