by Kim Estes Elliott
14 May 2018

My love for the senior population dates back to the day I visited a nursing home as part of required training during nursing school. While many of my classmates were eager to find work in the Emergency Room, Operating Room, or Labor and Delivery, I felt a calling to care for America’s aging population. I wanted to treat more than symptoms and wounds; I felt a calling to holistically invest in the whole person, which is the job description for senior living nurses. It is a calling that permanently steered the direction of my career. Today, I advocate for exceptional care and innovation in senior living and am constantly looking for ways to recruit the next generation of nurses to my cause.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a shortfall of nurses will exceed 1 million by 2024. However, people 65 and older are expected to comprise 16 percent of America’s population by 2020 and nearly 20 percent by 2030, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Even more alarming, the National Council on Aging notes an uptick in chronic conditions. At least 80 percent of people 65 and older have at least one chronic medical condition, and more than 77 percent have two. Bottom line: there are more seniors than ever before, many struggling with major health conditions, and fewer nurses to care for them.

At Brookdale, we have the privilege of managing these challenges while also helping seniors live their Optimum Life. We operate around 1,000 communities in 46 states and have the ability to care for more than 100,000 residents. In these communities, Brookdale hires nurses as Health and Wellness Directors who are responsible for overseeing clinical services including maintaining standards, leading health and wellness programming, and managing care associates. They take an important leadership role in our communities and we prepare them not only for managing care associates, but also to be strategic, inspirational leaders. The work offers opportunity to advance to higher-level leadership positions at the district, regional and corporate levels.

It is a different path than traditional hospital nursing. Rather than treating acute illnesses, these nurses shape the overall quality and content of care residents receive on a daily basis. It is truly a culture of wellness in a clinical world. This rewarding role develops leadership skills, business acumen and wellness coaching.

Surprisingly, many nursing students don’t consider this career path. A few years ago, I met a nursing student named Madison at a local coffee shop and we started talking about my personal career path, which sparked her interest. We exchanged contact information and I followed up and invited her to shadow me at our corporate office and scheduled a trip to Brookdale Hendersonville so she could get a feel of what it’s like to work in a community.

Madison immediately fell in love with the work and I helped her lay out a post-graduation plan with a mission of growing her career at Brookdale. Upon graduation, Madison accepted a job with Brookdale as a Health and Wellness Coordinator in Rhode Island. She is passionate about her work and relishes building long-lasting relationships with residents and families. A chance meeting led to a thriving career.

I wish I could mentor every nursing student and help them find a similar path. This is why I joined the Dean’s Advisory Board for the University of Central Florida School of Nursing. My goal is to have every nursing student consider the meaningful work of senior living. Brookdale Health and Wellness Directors aren’t just providing bedside care for six patients for a 12 hour shift; they are using their knowledge and clinical skills to have a major impact on the lives of all the people who live in their community. Nothing is more rewarding than building relationships and changing lives for the better. You don’t need scrubs to do that.

If you are interested in a Health and Wellness Director position at Brookdale, visit brookdalecareers.com.

Nurse Appreciation Week is May 6-12, but Brookdale is celebrating a Culture of Wellness in a Clinical World all month. Read blogs from Kim Estes Elliott and Carol Cummings, plus meet Brookdale Health and Wellness Superstars at BrookdaleNews.com.

 

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