Her passion's quality of life

at work

Heather Allen, 'Neighborhood' leader, Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center & Hospital, Baltimore

March 08, 2009|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Salary: $62,000

Age: 32

Years on the job: 10

How she got started:: After graduating from Towson University with a bachelor's degree in psychology and sociology, Allen went to work as director of admissions for a Baltimore-area long-term nursing care and rehabilitation center. She came to Levindale in 1999 as a guest relations specialist. Two years later she became director of guest relations, and in 2006 she started as a "neighborhood" leader.

Typical day:: The day starts early for Allen, who said she's usually in by about 6 a.m. One day a week, she arrives by 10 a.m. and stays through dinner service in an effort to keep in contact with all three shifts of employees.

Allen acts as the director of her unit, which includes 60 long-term-care residents and about 55 staff members. Management responsibilities for the unit are split between a clinical leader, who oversees quality of care, and Allen, who is in charge of quality of life. There are four long-term-care units or neighborhoods at Levindale; Allen oversees the Golden Hills neighborhood.

Her job involves addressing the staff with daily updates and schedules, overseeing the budget, making hiring decisions, assisting with activities, helping at meal times and handling any discipline issues.

She also often teaches training classes for staff members. She's usually not behind her desk, unless she is working on administrative tasks.

"The majority of my time on the unit is with residents," Allen said.

She has another role with the organization. She still serves as director of guest relations and helps resolve conflicts, answers questions and addresses concerns.

Most days Allen finishes by about 4 p.m., but her cell phone is on 24 hours a day.

Biggest change in her 10 years:: Levindale adopted the neighborhood model in 2007 to make the facility feel more like home or a community. This includes coordinating all staff on a unit to work together in caring for the residents and in meeting their individual needs and requests.

"It's basically coming in every day and saying, 'What looks institutional and how do we make it different?" Allen said.

The residents:: Many of the residents on Allen's unit are diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Although it can be hard, she said, she's passionate about her job and enjoys when residents remember something about their past.

"It's positive thoughts and memories," Allen said. "That brings a smile to my face."

The good:: "The relationships. It's like you have an extended family."

The bad:: "You have to be a truly talented multitasker. For my personality, it's perfect. I can't be bored."

Philosophy:: "I realize I can't do everything. You can quickly become overwhelmed, so I set weekly goals."

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