Q & A with Grace Lutheran Foundation’s Director of Human Resources

Human Resources Director Bryan Bessa shares the ins and outs of working in the healthcare field and with Grace Lutheran Foundation.

What kind of background do you look for in an applicant?

Previous healthcare experience is always a plus! Unless it’s a licensed position, no prior training is required for many of the positions we have. Remember, having no experience is better than having poor previous work history! We offer a training program for our communities.

That’s convenient! How long is the program and what are the details on that?Bryan_Bessa

Community Based Residential Facility (CBRF) training is state mandated, meaning people have to come with it or get it within 90 days of employment. We offer all of the required trainings in house our trainers are current employees who work within our organization. We recently began offering these courses to the community and have worked with other assisted living facilities to offer this program. At Grace Lutheran Foundation we also have the C.N.A. training program, which is a three-week course and sees the most participation and highest pass rates for the Chippewa Valley.

We also offer to reimburse those whom we hire after graduating from the training program 100 percent.

 When an individual comes in for an interview, what skill set and personality do you look for?

When I look for employees, there are basically three components that they are made up of: head, heart and hands. The head: do they have the ability to think critically or think on their feet? Do they get it and do they have the ability to learn? The hands: Do they have the technical ability? That’s the physical ability, to perform the task. And the final part is the heart. That is the one piece we can’t teach. If someone doesn’t know how to do something and there’s a knowledge gap, we can teach him or her. If they don’t have the drive, the want, the motivation or their heart isn’t in the right place…I can’t teach that. You either have it or you don’t.

It’s not always about what we want in an applicant; it’s about whether we are a good fit for each other. Being qualified and whether we like you is only half the equation; if it’s not a mutual likeness it won’t work in the end.

How should an applicant dress for an interview?

I don’t get too bogged down with how people look in an interview. Suits and ties aren’t the way people present themselves in this industry. It isn’t as much about as what you’re wearing as it is about the perception I’m getting. If someone says, “I just came from work” and they are wearing scrubs, I can live with that. If someone came from home and they are wearing jeans with holes, I get the perception that they don’t care about the interview and that forces me to assume they don’t care about themselves, much less about the job, their teammates or the customers we serve. Our customers and clients deserve our best everyday and it is our job to find the ones that we feel are committed.

 In general, what can someone expect working in the healthcare field?

It’s hard work. It’s hard work at all levels, regardless of your role. It can be physically, emotionally and mentally draining work. It is a fast-paced environment and each day is different. The trade off though is that it can be the most rewarding work. You can have a great interaction with a resident/client or family on a less-than-desirable day and it makes it all worth it.

What can someone expect working in one of Grace Lutheran Foundation’s communities?

The big thing is that we are a non-profit and we’re locally owned and operated. Those who work in our organization are caring for people who are from this community, perhaps people they know. The foundation genuinely cares about who you are as a person, not solely what you do for the company. We provide great care for our residents and their families, but we also provide the best care we can to our employees and their families. That’s equally important, because if we’re not taking care of the people who do the work in the organization, we can’t expect them to continue to do good work. And because we are non-profit, it’s not about making the shareholders rich; we are the shareholders! It’s about reinvesting money back into the company (through improving technology, programming, etc.) and our staff through competitive wages, benefits and an atmosphere they can thrive in .

Employment at Grace Lutheran Foundation can mean so many other things besides working as a CNA. What other roles are there in the organization?

There are various opportunities within our communities!

  • Dietary related: dietary assistant, cook- prepares meals, sets tables, etc.
  • Activity related: activities coordinator – plans activities like games, Bingo, town excursions, exercise etc.
  • Housekeeping and laundry: cleans rooms, infection control, cleans commercial and personal laundry, etc. These people are very important because as people get older, typically, immune systems are compromised.
  • Maintenance: maintains buildings, repairs breakdowns, etc.

We have tons of opportunities where employees can work – not only in direct care, but support roles as well – and grow throughout the company. One of the benefits of having multiple communities is that there may not be a position open in the building you’re in, but there’s a chance there is one in another of our buildings.

We also try to pull some of those growth barriers out of the way. For those who are aspiring nurses, we offer tuition payments of up to $1,000 each semester for up to three semesters.

What have you loved about working with Grace Lutheran Foundation? 

Money is never the first question; it is “what do we need to do for this resident in this situation.” The financial picture is important, but we never let it supersede our mission to take care of our residents. That is what care giving is about! We have a large percentage of staff who have a long history with our company. That goes a long way with stability and trust and it translates to more personalized and efficient care for our residents.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Even if someone goes into the healthcare field and decides it’s not for them, it’s still great experience to have. It creates a greater understanding and appreciation for what these people do and benefits the community overall. Our employees are some of the most compassionate, selfless individuals on this planet. If Winston Churchill was correct when he said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” I would say that our caregivers have some of the best lives ever lived!

Interview conducted by Stokes+HERZOG Marketing, P.R. and Advertising

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MUSIC & MEMORY Benefits People with Dementia

MUSIC & MEMORY℠ is a non-profit program that can help improve the quality of life for seniors with dementia. Care professionals receive training that teaches how personalized playlists can be played on iPods or other devices that can enable those struggling with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive and physical challenges to reconnect with the world through music-triggered memories.

About the Program

Some care facilities are able to receive grant money that helps with setting up the program. According to Karen Park, activity director at Grace Lutheran Foundation’s Syverson Lutheran Home, there are two sources for assistance available in the state of Wisconsin. The first is the national MUSIC & MEMORY℠ program, which was started by Dan Kohen and provides training for certification and help with funding for care facilities. The second is the Wisconsin Music & Memory initiative offered by Wisconsin Health services in Madison that provides grants to care facilities.

MUSIC & MEMORY℠  webinars provide training on:

  • The benefits of personalized music.
  • Research on personalized music as a therapeutic tool.
  • How to reduce the use of certain medications.
  • Tools to measure the success of the program.
  • How to create a customized play list.
  • How to get family and staff involved in the process.

Karen Park is in the process of creating a webinar that will be used by MUSIC & MEMORY℠ in training caregivers who are interested in participating in the program.

Resources for Family

For family members caring for loved ones at home, the MUSIC & MEMORY℠ website has free resource guides available to help them incorporate Music & Memory into their at home care.

The Grace Lutheran Foundation communities that are certified to participate in the program include:

  • Syverson Lutheran Home
  • Grace Edgewood
  • Grace Woodlands

Community News

Grace made the news in March 2015 with a mention of the MUSIC & MEMORY program at Syverson Lutheran Home. March 1 story in the Eau Claire Leader Telegram