Residents on Staff Selection Panels

Residents on Staff Selection Panels - Brightwater NZ explains why

The Presbyterian Support Central (PSC) Aged Care organisation headquarters is located in Wellington in the North Island of New Zealand. It has 15 aged care facilities in the Region stretching from Wellington out to Masterton and up to New Plymouth. Since 2007 PSC has been committed to, as a matter of organisational policy, combating loneliness, helplessness and boredom to reduce most of the suffering experienced by elders or residents in Aged Care.

When Manager Virginia Dyall-Kalidas started work at the PSC Brightwater facility in 2010, one of her first challenges was to undertake the Eden Associate Training TM Program. As part of this training, participants are asked to devise a project to take back and implement in their own organisation. Virginia decided to implement a project where residents should be involved in the selection of all staff in their home. Virginia recalls that once she completed the program it became apparent to her that staff provide services to residents in their own home and yet the residents themselves did not have a say in the selection process for the new staff members. Virginia had decided that this somehow was not right as she acknowledged the fact that staff members are the biggest single influence on how happy the resident may feel in their own home. It was also noted that all staff, and not just those providing direct care, are in constant contact with residents.

Armed by her training and a new understanding, Virginia returned to Brightwater and one of her first tasks was to raise the prospect of resident involvement in staff recruitment with the residents and staff. Virginia was unsure how the residents might react to this suggestion but as resident Elizabeth Treadwell says "it was a new way of thinking but it made so much sense ....... and in the end, I felt tremendously honoured to be able to participate in such a meaningful way on behalf my friends and fellow residents".

One of the tricks to getting the right staff for a home is to resist the bureaucratic urge to base staff recruitment on a technical process, qualifications only, what is written on paper or even said. All position applicants at Brightwater are asked to read and understand information about the Eden Alternative TM principles designed to combat loneliness, helplessness and boredom prior to applying for a job. Prior to commencing work at Brightwater new recruits are walked through the facility and introduced to the residents and staff. They are observed to see how they interact with the residents and staff and to gauge their empathy for the residents and their future role in the facility. Subtle signs include their willingness and enthusiasm to meet and greet residents, to make eye contact with residents, and their reaction to disability i.e. ease or awkwardness.

When it comes to interviewing the prospective new employee the role of the resident is extremely important and influential. There are some pre-discussed and set questions for each applicant but the resident interview is encouraged to "free wheel" on a range of topics. It has often been observed by the staff interviewers that the residents appear to have a 'sixth sense' about the caring attitude of the applicant. The thoughts of staff interviewers are often dominated by concerns about the technical qualities of the applicant. The resident however, invariably remains focused on the human virtues. That is, whether or not, the residents will feel comfortable in the company of that person. Resident, Elizabeth Treadwell, explains that "some applicants only ever respond to the staff when answering questions, even if the question was asked by the resident interviewer". The applicant will turn towards the staff when giving answers or they will find it hard to look at or relate to a resident interviewer in a wheelchair. For Elizabeth, this indicates that the applicant is placing more importance on what the staff interviewers think, and this is one sign that the person may not be suitable.

To date there have been approximately 15 staff appointed using the system of resident involvement and as Manager Virginia Dyall-Kalidas explains, we are more than happy with the results. The staff members appear to appreciate the changes being put in place and employee satisfaction has jumped substantially over the past 12 months and staff turnover has decreased.

The way staff feel about working at Brightwater can be summed up by this quote

Let us realize that the privilege to work is a gift

That power to work is a blessing

That love of work is a success

(David O. McKay)

This is but one improvement that has been made to involve the residents in the home. Other things that have been done include:

The introduction of flexible meal times with residents being able to do a number of things for themselves. An office has been converted into a mini kitchen and the residents have chosen the paint colour and the equipment. It is noticeable that residents are getting bolder in asking for what they want.

No medications at meal times.

Residents participate in activities of daily living such as dusting and the laundry.

Every day is now a child and baby day - both the staff and the children of the resident's family are always welcome to be in the facility.

And chickens .............residents love picking the eggs for breakfast.