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Celebrating Health Support Specialist Graduates

Some Health Support Specialists (HSS) say the highest honor of their career is to walk across the stage during the general session at Institute as they are recognized for completing their coursework, advancing their skills, and furthering their commitment to care for our aging population.

During this year’s Institute, you could feel the immense pride overflowing in the room from family members, college faculty, coworkers and others as our HSS graduates were announced.

We recently asked our graduates to reflect on the impact the programs has had on them and this is what they said: 

Kayla Tanttari, Millstream Commons, Northfield

  • How has taking the HSS program changed you? I believe that the HSS program has helped me to become a stronger leader, a better trainer and someone that is more knowledgeable in my field. I find that I have gained more responsibilities on the job but also receive more respect from my bosses and co-workers and the program gave me the confidence to feel more comfortable in that role.
  • How has the HSS program changed how you work as a caregiver? I don’t know that the program changed much for me in the sense of my daily tasks, but it changed the way that I think about my job and the way that I process the information I am given. Since going through the program, I am a better problem solver and more confident in the choices that I am making for our tenants because I have some knowledge and history to back up those choices. I feel more confident in a leadership role and enjoy sharing my experience with others. 

Gladys Asuma, Emerald Crest of Minnetonka by Augustana Care, Minnetonka

  • How has taking the HSS program changed you? My involvement in the program has changed the way I evaluate situations. I now have a personal understanding of what it means to care not only for the physical needs of my residents but also their emotional, psychosocial, spiritual, and environmental needs. The program has helped me to grow in the areas of patience and empathy. I always remind myself that the behaviors of my residents are not intentional, but rather it is the outcome of the illness that they are battling. I have also come to appreciate the need to help my residents enjoy quality life to the best of their ability. In summary, I am a better caregiver and a better person with a better understanding of my role. 
  • How has the HSS program changed how you work as a caregiver? I work with understanding, with goals in mind for each resident. I treat each resident as an individual with unique needs. I remind myself of the goals that need to be accomplished for each resident according to their care plan. I also allow each resident to be who they are and to enjoy their life the way they wish. An example is allowing a resident of mine to go back to her room and watch her favorite show instead of taking part in the larger group activity. It is my role to help the residents enjoy quality life, by allowing them to make decisions, ensure a safe and clean environment, and meeting their nutritional needs. 

Victoria S. Taylor, Emerald Crest of Shakopee by Augustana Care, Shakopee

  • How has taking the HSS program changed you? The HSS program changes me in so many ways. I now have a purpose, financially, my life is far better then what it was before. I always tried to leave a good impression on my residents whenever I assist them. I always want them to feel safe and know that I am there for them.
  • How has the HSS program changed how you work as a caregiver? Taking the HSS program has totally changed the way I care for my residents. I now take into consideration the entire person, meaning that, I now take into consideration the Physical, Mental, Spiritual, psychosocial, environment and the Diets of the individual which makes more sense to me. In as much as it is important to satisfy my residents and their families it is also important to have a safe and friendly working environment. 

Tammy Pundsack, Mother of Mercy Senior Living, Albany

  • How has taking the HSS program changed you? It helps me to care for my tenants differently and better.  I have more knowledge in the care of all tenants.
  • How has the HSS program changed how you work as a caregiver? I have learned especially how to care better for memory care tenants and how to communicate with them. There were so many different things that I learned throughout the year of classes. 

Marie Koopmeiners, Mother of Mercy Senior Living, Albany

  • How has taking the HSS program changed you? It has given me more knowledge on working with the elderly. I now have the patience to listen and understand the level of cares that we provide.  
  • How has the HSS program changed how you work as a caregiver? I now think of all aspects in their cares, everything from the environment to the cares themselves.

Courtney Christians, Traverse Care Center, Wheaton

  • How has taking the HSS program changed you? Taking the HSS program has changed me by letting me be a leader, a mentor, and bring my ideas and thoughts to the table when helping better our facility.  My resources have expanded!   I learned from different techniques to help those I care for and better understand my residents.
  • How has the HSS program changed how you work as a caregiver? As a caregiver, the program has changed how I care for the residents by expanding my tools, and ideas, and other therapy options.  When working with them, I understand the residents more and my patience has grown.

Melissa Ramirez, Traverse Care Center, Wheaton

  • How has taking the HSS program changed you? By taking time to really get to know the resident, like knowing their likes and dislikes; helping the resident be a little independent on their Assisted Daily Living activities; having a lot of patience working in the nursing home; and good communication skills and listening skills is very important.
  • How has the HSS program changed how you work as a caregiver?  Taking time to the Assisted Daily Living activities on the resident and focusing more on their needs; setting a good example for new co-workers at Traverse Care Center; and knowing how to improve on the resident’s care at my workplace.

Carin Leeb, Essentia Health Oak Crossing, Detroit Lakes

  • How has taking the HSS program changed you? This course has given me the tools to be a better advocate for my residents. I am able to communicate and understand them in ways that I couldn’t have before. I am also more equipped to communicate those needs to my fellow coworkers, supervisors, and managers.
  • How has the HSS program changed how you work as a caregiver? I am able to assess and anticipate the resident’s needs. I am also able to better understand those needs and understand what the resident may be feeling and look at the situation and see the need, and not the job.  I love what I do, and this course has elevated my passion to a calling. I am honored that I get to spend precious life moments with my extended family.

Mike Maday, Lakeview Methodist Health Care, Fairmont

  • How has taking the HSS program changed you? It gives me a different outlook at life.  How people/seniors should be treated. It showed me how to improve myself and how I can be a mentor to help people. 
  • How has the HSS program changed how you work as a caregiver? I now think more about our seniors and how they may want to be treated or shall I say how I think they should be treated. To be kind, give dignity, respect etc. For me the list can go on and on.

Steven Huynh, Augustana Regent, Burnsville

  • How has taking the HSS program changed you? I have gained a lot of deeper knowledge and information on geriatric care which I can utilize to improve the life of our elderly residents.
  • How has the HSS program changed how you work as a caregiver? I think I am more equipped with skill set that helps me understand and support my elder resident better.  Every certain situation, there is always a solution for it which I can intervene and improve my residents’ lives.

Sharon Horton, Good Shepherd Lutheran Services, Rushford

  • How has taking the HSS program changed you? It helps me bring in new ideas!
  • How has the HSS program changed how you work as a caregiver? I can walk in the resident’s shoes!  Treat them as adults, not children. Go into their world.

Angelia Williams, Augustana Signe Burckhardt Manor, Minneapolis

  • How has taking the HSS program changed you? I have been able to look at my profession from my aspect, and clients’ aspect in a different way.  I have learned things to create change in better ways, and it has helped me to fully be more compassionate in all areas of work.
  • How has the HSS program changed how you work as a caregiver? I am more patient, observant, have become a better listener, and I can relate to things that some residents are going through better than before; such as residents with dementia.

If you have any questions about the Health Support Specialist program or how to get your employees involved, contact Laura Lutgens at llutgens@leadingagemn.org.

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