Service for Retirement, Assisted Living and Long-Term Care

Serving others is what we provide in health care environments; it is our product, it is what we are meant to do. People who choose to work in health care do so because they have a desire to provide care, nurture and enhance the lives of those who enter their community. However, a service orientation is not always what is found in health care environments today. This article addresses contemporary leadership and guides readers through a process of developing a service-oriented culture. SERVICE covers organizational themes and practices and offers implementation strategies to create or enhance an organizational culture, improving the experience and life for individuals who live and work in long-term care.

Service and leaderships role in serving residents, families and staff

Service is the desire to fulfill an obligation, to give aid, to be of assistance, to meet the needs of others. The extension of service is to help, to make things easier or better, to relieve, support, advocate and to care for others. In environments that care for older adults it is precisely what we are to do. Exemplary service providers make the needs of others a priority.

In leadership, service or servant leadership is the desire to serve others before self. Leaders with this philosophy tend to the needs and growth of others and build community. These leaders are great listeners, empathetic, passionate, trusting, ethical, and dream of a better way - a better workplace. The objective for a service oriented leader is to enhance the growth and development of employees, and increase teamwork and collaboration, while implementing strategies to enhance care and services that benefit recipients, employees and the organization.

Leaders role in developing a service organization

Leaders are responsible for the culture of an organization. Service oriented leaders are engaged in the day to day life of the facility - visible, engaging, caring, and assisting whenever it is needed. These behaviors demonstrate their commitment to serving and act as a role model for others. Employees believe what they see and experience and are not fooled by what is said unless the leaders actions are consistent with their words.

Initially, creating a service oriented culture takes a considerable amount of time, as leaders must engage staff by discussing and exploring the concept of service and what it means in their daily work. Conversations with all employees about what it means to serve and what each person can do to serve others is important. It takes all staff in an organization to commit to the philosophy and will not be accomplished by leadership alone. However, once staff is engaged it requires only occasional reminders when staff need a boost or have lost their way.

A Way of Life

When service to others is operational amazing acts of kindness occur, with staff going out of their way to do what they need to do to serve another person. Staff, educated on the service philosophy, vision and expectations for performance, need not seek permission for actions but are free to make decisions on their own, secure and confident about their choices. Most noteworthy are the many acts of staff kindness that are experienced when staff is service-oriented, educated and empowered to serve. Examples of such initiatives include employees securing food for a grieving family of a dying resident; taking residents laundry home to launder when a family member is ill, or making special desserts that they know will make a resident happy. And they do so without a desire for recognition; they do so quietly, simply because it makes someone else happy or more comfortable.

Residents, families and staff satisfaction improve when everyone is committed to caring for one another. Staff turnover is reduced and employee retention enhanced, as they enjoy working for service-oriented organizations. And it is fun! When a group of people committed to service move together as one, it is a wonderful, enlightening and joyful experience. With this dedication comes a service philosophy that is deeply embedded in the culture, employees who are naturally service driven, and in time it simply becomes a way of being, it becomes a way of life.