Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Small Miracle of A World Changer

                 This incredible lady announced her retirement today.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelo

I began my career at Christie Gardens because of Grace Sweatman.

For the previous 15 years, I ran a daycare in my home and although the two career paths are diametrically opposite, she saw life experiences and gifts in me that could be valuable at Christie Gardens. I had no experience or education in this field, but she took a chance with me.

            I have now worked here almost 16 years, and the change has been dramatic for me. As an organization, Christie Gardens functioned like many companies and all long term cares, with hierarchical organizational chart. When change occurred, often those of us farther down didn’t hear about them until several days after they were implemented, or when we did something wrong because we didn’t know there was a change. There was no participation in decisions. Personally, I felt invisible sometimes. I always gave my best to my job, and I loved it. However, there was little recognition, and I wondered if anyone knew what I did in a day.

           Now, I have the incredible privilege of being an Advocate in one of the neighbourhoods. My primary responsibility is to support the care partners (PSWs) and be a servant-leader among them. Together, we work as a team to serve the residents and their families. We are a community. I meet with my supervisor weekly, and my ideas are considered and often acted upon. It has changed me and I am growing a new confidence as I joyfully share my gifts.

          I have seen changes in the care partners. They are learning new ways to relate to residents and each other. Instead of caring only for those who are assigned to them, they work as a team and help each other. They laugh. Sometimes, when a resident passes away, they cry. We celebrate together the lives that were among us.

          Most days, we have what we call “huddles” when morning and afternoon staff meet to learn, share and have input into decisions in our neighbourhood. It is during huddles that we learn to know and appreciate each other as people. At one such time, a 30 year employee cried when she realised one of her residents passed away. This kind of vulnerability was new to her, and we treated it as a gift.

          There is such a feeling of team. Instead of being unapproachable, the nurses confer with care partners and advocates and together we find the best ways to serve the residents. Residents are part of the team, making important decisions about all aspects of their lives. The men in the maintenance department stop into resident’s rooms to chat and the concierge meets another resident for coffee in the café.

          We continue to learn and grow every day. We know better, and we do better, but tomorrow is another day and we may know better yet.

          Because of the vision of Grace Sweatman, we have the freedom, and in fact the mandate to do just that. “Together we lead, serve and change our world.” Grace Sweatman is a world-changer, and her influence has changed my world and released me to do the same at Christie Gardens.

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