Village team built upon support and respect
In her heart, Vanda Koukounakis has always known that the culture within The Village of Wentworth Heights creates a unique space for residents and team members to find meaning in life through their relationships. It’s a culture that goes far beyond any typical caregiving experience in a long-term care home and makes the village a special place to work.
That intrinsic belief was affirmed on Nov. 24 during the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s (OLTCA) Quality and Innovation awards ceremony when the village was named 2016 Workplace of the Year. Despite the fact that three days before, Vanda and her team welcomed the first of a new wave of residents to the village’s brand new retirement neighbourhoods after years of planning and construction, she knew she couldn’t miss the gala in Toronto. It’s a key part of the OLTCA’s annual This is Long-Term Care conference and as the village’s general manager she knew her village was a likely candidate for the honour among the nearly 700 long-term care homes served by the OLTCA.
“I don't think I have ever worked with a team that takes care of one another so well,” Vanda says. “I think it's because they have all worked with one another for so long that they truly care for each other even if they don't always see eye to eye on everything.”
She says the village team is a family that would do anything to support and protect one another. Because nearly 80 per cent of the full-time team has been together for at least 15 years and nearly 60 per cent of the part-timers have spent a decade together, this family has grown incredibly close over the years. When a team member faces a challenge in life, their Wentworth family is there.
“When someone is facing hardship we all come together to talk about what we can do help,” Vanda explains. “We have lost two team members in less than two years – one to a tragic fire and one to cancer – and each time we acknowledge how much they contribute to our lives and the lives of our residents and we seek ways to support their families.”
The village raises funds for a Compassion Fund that is available to all who may need it as just one example of the collective group supporting each individual team member. The comfort this provides may explain why the village consistently reports the highest level of team member engagement within a highly engaged organization. They are committed to each other and committed to each resident and this level of engagement is reflected in the residents’ perception of life quality creating a true home where everyone finds meaning in daily life.
The OLTCA award is a reflection of this, and Vanda says preserving and deepening this cherished culture is of the utmost importance as the village team grows into its current expansion.
“It's creating an environment where people don't just ‘fit in’ to a workplace culture but rather build a culture where they feel they belong because they have a hand in creating it and sustaining it,” Vanda says. “Our team at Wentworth has figured this out and it's now time to pass that on to a new complement of team members.”