I’m now coming up on my ninth month of work at Friends Care Community, and as this co-op quarter comes to a close I know that my time with them is also waning. I love my job. The stress, the company politics, and the ever-looming moment of a resident passing makes the job a lot to handle, but I don’t think I would ever change taking this opportunity. I started at Friends this last October on a Miller Fellowship, and I was very intimidated to the say the least, but now I walk through the halls and I feel like I belong there. I know all of our regular residents and even have a few favorites. I know it is bias but can you blame me? They greet me with a wave, a smile, and casual “How are you?”, and I just feel like I made the right decision.
Work begins the second I enter the office, with Becky, my supervisor, handing me fistfuls of things she needs done for the day. I scan through the piles of paper as we confer over what she did last night, what her husband made for dinner, and what she saw on the History Channel. I’ve really come to admire Becky, and honestly I don’t know how she does it all. This woman single-handedly runs the admission department for our independent living, extended care facility, independent living, and rehab unit, so it makes sense that, as usual, the office is covered in stacks of papers. Becky’s office only has one computer so if she is working on it, I’m normally bumped to Medical Records. I had an office once upon a time, but ever since Chuck, the CEO intern came in, I’ve been here. I do miss my office, but I like being in Medical Records; it’s a lot quieter. The office is tucked away around the corner from administration with a large wooden door that keeps chatty co-workers from just stopping in. Once I am done with the papers Becky has given me, I come back to her office and we basically play the waiting game for referrals. The social workers from local hospitals call in with who they think would be a good candidate for our facility. Becky and I secretly love to read the tragic cases they send us; you know, the ones that say “25-year-old gunshot wound victim”. We pull up their medical report and it’s almost like watching a soap opera, it’s so dramatic. And for some reason those moments all end with a good mom type lecture from Becky. She can go off on tangents like, “You’ve got to stay safe in a world like ours today,” or “No one ever volunteers anymore.” Becky can never finish her lectures though, we get sucked back into the real world when Linda, our receptionist, calls into to say we have some lovely couple who would like a tour of the facility. I don’t want to brag, but I feel like I have gotten really good at giving tours, even if it is the same basic answers to the same questions everyone has.
“When did your rehab facility get built?”
“How much is it going to cost me?”
“For ECF, it is around $8,000 a month.”
“I really don’t know how all this works. I just want to get my Dad somewhere close to me. Can you help me?”
The most important thing you learn or notice when doing tours, is that most of the people you encounter really have no clue what they are looking for, they’re just scared, and listening to them is one of the most powerful marketing tools in the business. I remember my first days, watching Becky just nod her head and look into the eyes of people who you can’t describe as anything other than lost. It’s really powerful.
It’s always good to have a constant thing in your work place, especially working in a high stress environment and mine is Katie, the facility social worker. It never fails that after a tour, Katie comes into the office. She likes to be informed and wants to know who the people are and what they are looking for, just so she can add her two cents in on the matter. I see Becky sometimes get tired of it, but I enjoy Katie’s company. She is the only one in the administration who is even close to my age, even though she’s about fifteen years older than me. Her office shares a door with Becky’s, and on occasion I get sent over there when we run out of things to do.
My time at Friends has been really special to me. It might be because every day ends with Becky saying, “Good job today!”, or because one of the dementia residents remembers my name. It might even be because I can really say my co-workers are my family. Either way, this job makes me happy, and as for the impact it has had on my education, I can say this: it has really taught me how to care for people and develop relationships. Maybe it isn’t the job for the rest of my life or a job that pertains to my major, but it is one that has touched my heart, and that’s all I could have asked for.
For the past seven months, I have been working as an administrative assistant at Friends Care Community, a nursing home, which shockingly, has been anything but a boring experience. I work alongside our Director of Admission and Marketing, Becky Baker, who is honestly one of the most amazing people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, and I’ve met some amazing people. I think that is the main benefit of my job, meeting amazing people. Becky is strong-willed, empathetic, and one of the best listeners; she is someone I want to be when I get older. Everyday comes with new assignments, or as she calls them, “projects” that keep me on my toes. From working on our newsletter, to helping check-in residents, I rarely find a moment without something to do. One of my favorite “projects” , was to interview residents about their lives. The question, “Where did you grow up?”, takes myself on a journey where within minutes I am sucked into their stories. There is nothing that compares to hearing history through those who have lived it. I’ve met a man who worked for General Douglas McArthur, a woman who worked for Dr. Sontag, a man who tracked Sputnik, and a professor of German Literature, like a said, amazing people.
One of the biggest drawback to this job is losing residents, but it is ironically what I am fascinated by. Normally, when you enter a nursing home, you don’t leave until your body is taken to the funeral home, it’s just how it is. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve met some amazing people, and one thing I have learned is that they die too. This job has strangely made me very aware of my own mortality, that even those who have led amazing lives, can still end up here. And in being aware of my own mortality, I feel more connected. Most of my life, there is an endless chatter in my mind being concerned with what’s best for me, with what will help me, but since understanding my role in this job, it is a lot quieter in my brain. I don’t feel completely consumed with understanding myself, but understanding others around me.