Libby Brightman: New Experience and New Appreciation for Caregivers

“Direct care was not something I ever thought I would be doing,” says UMRC human resources business partner, Libby Brightman. But when the call went out to recruit other team members to assist as caregivers at UMRC’s Kresge Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center (Kresge Center), she answered that call.

“I was nervous about it at first, but I knew the need was there,” says Libby. “I decided, if our caregivers and residents need support, I’m capable of doing that, and I wanted to do that. The HR team was very supportive in allowing me to help in this way.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact not only on older adults, but on our care team members as well who have needed to be off work due to their own illness or that of a family member.

On March 31, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a temporary waiver of current CNA training requirements to fill gaps in direct-care staffing during this crisis, explains Missi Latter, Vice President of Quality and Compliance for UMRC & Porter Hills. “We were able to utilize both online and on-site skills training, pairing them with experienced care team members at Kresge Center, to bring our new recruits up-to-speed to assist with providing support to our skilled nursing residents.”

For approximately three weeks, Libby and three other administrative team members worked as CNAs at Kresge Center. Libby says her typical day, which started at 7:00am, included “checking to see who’s awake; taking residents’ vitals (done twice per day) to check for fever, oxygen levels, blood pressure, etc.; keeping your eyes peeled on everyone; serving breakfast; answering call lights; assisting residents in the bathroom; getting them dressed; adjusting people in bed; and floating on the floor to help other CNAs as needed.”

“Our care teams were so welcoming and thankful that we were able to support them,” Libby adds. “They were so happy to see people step out of their usual roles to help.”

Libby says her favorite part of the experience was the opportunity to engage with residents. In her role in HR, Libby supports Huron Valley PACE and Thome PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly), “I always try to take time to sit with a PACE participant and hear their story. This experience has given me even more opportunity to do this, to hear about our residents’ families and backgrounds. Being able to sit with a resident and reassure them that they are going to be ok has been great.”

Libby expressed her gratitude for the Kresge caregiving team. “The caregivers like Mallory Underhile and Halle Mead (Kresge Center CNAs) who helped train me are so incredibly dedicated to serving our residents and maintaining their safety and physical as well as mental well-being,” says Libby. “This experience has given me a whole new appreciation for what our caregivers do on a daily basis.”

Libby says she will take this breadth of experience with her in her current job. “It’s given me a new lens to be able to look at a policy or procedure or big operational change. Not only do I have the HR lens, but, now that I have put myself in a caregiver’s shoes, I can ask ‘how will this change affect them?’ I can sympathize vs. empathize because I’ve actually done it.”