Recruiting and retention in skilled nursing can be difficult and maybe even disheartening. According to Long Term Care Community Coalition, nursing homes can turn over more than 50% of their nursing staff within a year. This can cause other staff members to experience burnout and follow suit in leaving the community.
Mission Health has made a point to decrease high turnover rates by introducing the Make a Friend Mentorship Program. Crystal Bergmann, CMA, from Downs Care and Rehabilitation Center (DCR), Kansas. Bergmann has been a mentor for over 2 years for CNAs and successfully helped to reduce the clinical staff retention rate to less than 5%. I had the opportunity to interview Bergmann to learn about her secrets on employee retention. Basing her leadership style on her own experience, Bergmann has made a difference in the lives of Downs’ newest CNAs to make them feel welcomed and appreciated.
How did your mentor impact your career with Mission Health and how did they prepare you for success?
When I started in 1999 there wasn’t a mentor program at the time. But I have had some amazing leaders who have shown me what hard work and true compassion is – while making sure I knew what the expectations were. I do not remember the CNA’s or nurses being helpful when I was a new CNA. I remember always being unsure if I was doing the tasks right, but if you asked questions, they would act like you were an inconvenience to them.
What characteristics do you possess in your leadership style that may have been passed down from your mentor?
Being compassionate, enthusiastic, hardworking, always understanding, and willing to help at any time. One thing I like to do is make sure new mentees know our expectations at DCR and if you are unsure on something, just ask as every question is important. As nurses and aides, we come in every day and treat our colleagues and residents with the same respect as if they were our own family.
What actions do you take to increase retention at Downs Care and Rehabilitation Center? How do you think the Make a Friend Mentorship program has helped with retention?
I always make sure new CNAs know what our expectations are and am willing to help them achieve them in any way I can. I like to help our staff grow by teaching them when they are not sure how to complete a task or if their work isn’t quite up to our expectations. I believe it helps them know that I am on their side and want to see them succeed.
I lead by example and am always willing to help whenever I am able. If staff are ill or have a family emergency, I try to help them find coverage or will try to help in any other way I can. I always try to make sure they are comfortable before they are put on the floor after training. I am always a phone call away if they have a question, have an issue and address whatever concerns they may have. We have had less turnover with our CNA’s since we started the Make a Friend Mentor program. I feel we have more dedicated, caring and self-sufficient CNA’s who take pride in caring for our residents.
Bergmann made the bold decision to become a mentor to “help mold new CNA’s into becoming dependable, and professional CNAs who may someday, want to help lead others while striving to do their best day to day.
Starting a new job can be intimidating and creating new relationships is difficult. Bergmann has created special relationships with new CNAs to make a positive impact in the community. Her mentees would describe her as “trustworthy, reliable, responsible, respectable, supportive, and caring”. One mentee said, “10 out of 10 would recommend!” Bergmann’s goal is to make her instruction fun, exciting, and understandable to ensure the new CNAs have the best experience while at Downs Care and Rehabilitation Center. Thank you, Crystal, from all of us at Mission Health and Downs, for making such a profound and positive impact.