Desire to Serve Led to Corporate Career Path

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Like many of Brookdale’s corporate associates, Bear Mahon joined the senior living industry out of a desire to serve others. His introduction to senior living came through the therapy and rehabilitation field. During his 18-year career in the industry, Mahon has served in nearly every imaginable capacity, from activities director to executive director at a community, and in various corporate roles with Brookdale. In his current position, Regional Vice President – Operations Lead, Mahon is charting a new course for executive directors and community operations.

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Bear Mahon RVP – Operations Lead

“At Brookdale our leaders and team members embrace a servant’s heart and empower us to touch the lives of the ones we serve,” Mahon said. “Our company provides many pathways to achieve your dreams of caring for and leading others toward fulfilling their mission and calling in life.  We have the chance every day to show our love and how much we truly care.  Joining our team will take your life from ordinary to extraordinary as we work together to make a difference.  Take the leap and we’ll catch you.”

Mahon’s interest in service comes naturally. He grew up in a military family and both of his parents spent time in the medical field, working in hospitals.

“I grew up walking the floors, talking with patients, and spending late nights in my parents’ offices,” Mahon said. “I began looking around at other settings and discovered senior living. During my initial interview in a community, I instantly felt at peace. It felt like home. I quickly learned to transition my thoughts from taking care of patients to now taking care of residents. My ability to serve would be based not just on medical care, but focusing on providing care and support on all of the domains of life.”

Mahon began his career in rehabilitative services. After graduating from college with a degree in therapeutic recreation, he went to work as an activities director and rehab coordinator in an independent living facility in Georgia. He worked in several departments during his time there.

“I started with resident programming and transitioned into their rehabilitation department,” Mahon said. “That led to a job as the community business manager. Six months after that, I was offered a position as the executive director of an American Retirement Corporation (ARC) community, and eventually, I landed at Emeritus, managing multiple communities. Two communities led to four, which led to 46 and eventually 72 communities.”

He quickly moved up in the company from area director, to regional director of operations, then to vice president of operations for Emeritus’ Southeast Division. In 2014, when Brookdale and Emeritus merged, he became a regional vice president for Brookdale. He assumed his new role as RVP – Operations Lead in September 2016.

“People ask me what has helped me grow at Brookdale,” Mahon said. “I think it’s my passion, cadence, and love for what I do. My mission is to teach people how to love, care, and serve others unconditionally. I trust my leaders, support our mission, honor the process, and respectfully challenge assumptions for fruitful solutions.”

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Dining Room Server Finds Leadership Opportunity

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Her dedication to helping seniors and the support she received from supervisors at Brookdale put Amber Bossio on a career path that led from dining room server to manager of personalized living. A culture of caring, team-oriented environment and opportunities for growth kept Bossio with Brookdale for 17 years.

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Amber Bossio

“One thing that I really love about Brookdale is a lot of our managers started out in hourly positions just like I did and worked their way up,” Bossio said. “I like that they promote from within. We are placed where our strengths are. There’s so much here for you if you’re willing to give your heart and time.”

Bossio was 16-years-old when she joined Brookdale as a dining room server. Less than a year later she was promoted to lead server and the next year she made another step up, becoming a dining room supervisor. Within six years of starting her career at Brookdale, Bossi was offered the position of dining room manager.

Learning how to lead
Each promotion came with the challenge of navigating relationships between her co-workers and transitioning into the role of a supervisor.

“It was always interesting going from working side-by-side with someone then becoming their boss,” Bossio said. “I had to show and prove I could do it. I’ve always felt that you want to treat people how you want to be treated. Just because you’re the manager doesn’t mean you’re better or smarter than someone else. I’d do anything for my team. I’m not going to make them do all the hard, dirty stuff. I’m willing to roll up my sleeves and clean a toilet if I need to.”

After spending nearly 12 years in the dining department, Bossio found an opportunity to work more closely with residents. She took a position as a Clare Bridge program manager, assisted residents with dementia. In this role she designed memory care programs and supervised the care staff. It was through a meeting with one of Brookdale’s health and wellness directors that Bossio realized she wanted a role that would let her make deeper connections with residents.

“I had a good one-on-one conversation with our HWD about how I can be in the world of caring for residents,” Bossio said. “I realized I just have a way of reading people before they even ask. When you’re caring for someone, you can anticipate what they want and make their lives so much easier. Sometimes they are not always going to ask. They have too much pride.”

Opportunity to advance
Bossio enjoyed working with seniors so much that she decided to pursue a degree in social services, a move that would qualify her for more advanced positions. During this time Brookdale allowed her to work part-time as a resident activities assistant. After graduating, Bossio was offered a position as manager of personalize living, her current role.

“When I graduated and was offered this position it was like a dream come true,” she said.

Bossio supervises a team of seven associates, offering coaching, counseling and evaluation. She also markets the program, coordinates services and assists with budgeting. A big part of her job is to motivate others and Bossio tries to lead by example.

“I take the whole community to heart,” she said. “Even if it’s not my department, if I notice something wrong I’ll take action. This is where our residents live and I’m going to make sure it’s the best home they can have.”

As for showing job candidates and current associates the opportunities for advancement that Brookdale has, Bossio says she simple shows them her resume.

“I pretty much grew up working here,” Bossio said. “I tell people all the time, the opportunity is here.”

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Brookdale Associate Saw ‘Sign’ for Career Advancement

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While honeymooning in San Diego, CA, Travis Borchert saw what he calls a sign which helped him make a career decision. That sign was a Brookdale bus which happened to be rolling past the park where Borchert just happened to be in while talking on the phone to a district director about the opportunity to become an administrator at a Brookdale community. Borchert was in a transitional period, having just gotten married and recently earning a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration. He was a strong candidate for a similar position at another company, but felt that staying with Brookdale was the right move. The bus sighting affirmed that Brookdale was the place where Borchert belonged.

Travis_Borchert“I looked at my wife and said, ‘That’s my sign,’” Borchert said.

But even before that coincidental experience, Borchert saw Brookdale as a company which supported his education and career growth. He became a Brookdale associate in 2009, taking a position as a resident care provider at Brookdale LaCrosse. A little more than a year later he transferred to Brookdale Madison West, where he provided care for residents and assisted the activity and maintenance departments.

“It just felt like everything clicked when I was working with seniors,” Borchert said. “I felt fulfilled at the end of the day. I saw how much fun my director had with the residents and I felt like I had so much to learn from them.”

While working at Brookdale, Borchert took classes to earn an associate’s degree in healthcare administration and later a bachelor’s degree in the same field. It was a process that took three years.

“Throughout that time my executive director in Madison was always asking if I needed anything,” Borchert said. “Whenever I needed to do an essay they’d help me and I’d use my break times to work on assignments. We had very open communication with one another.”

Borchert’s hard work and dedication to seniors provided him with the opportunity to lead a Brookdale community in Sussex, WI, becoming the executive director. He later transferred to a larger community before taking another career step when he was offered the role of associate executive director at Brookdale Madison West, which recently underwent a renovation and expansion. While focused on making his current community the best it can be, Borchert said he knows other advancement opportunities will come.

“I really believe the Brookdale culture is engrained in everyone here,” Borchert said. “The biggest thing is understanding why we’re here each day, to be here for the residents and their families, and each other, and provide the best care possible.”

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Housekeeper Job Leads to Executive Director Position

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Four years after joining Brookdale as a housekeeper Ashley Woodcox was offered the position of executive director, the top job at an assisted living community in Marion, IN. Her career advancement story is just one example of the opportunities associates find at Brookdale, a company that supports employee growth, rewards hard work and looks to promote from within. Ashley’s transition from cleaning rooms to calling the shots at a Brookdale community illustrates how a good first impression, strong relationships and dedication can lead to the fulfillment of career goals.

While studying healthcare administration at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ashley developed an interest in senior living. Veering away from the hospital industry was a career move that separated her from many classmates.

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Ashley Woodcox

“I felt like if I went into the hospital field I’d be in a cubicle pushing papers for years and years and years,” she said.

Ashley started taking classes to become a certified nursing assistant in the summer of 2010, and decided to seek a position at a local nursing home. She applied at all of the Bloomington area’s senior living centers and visited several in person to see if they had any openings. The last place she checked out was Brookdale Bloomington.

“I rang the bell and a nurse came to the door,” Ashley said. “She looked at me and said, ‘Oh hey, it’s you.’ I felt like she knew me, but we’d never met. I told her I was looking for a job and she went on and on about how the residents are awesome and she had actually taken a pay-cut to work here because she loved the place so much. From then on I was set on working at Brookdale. It was the only place I wanted to work.”

Ashley took a job as a housekeeper and, after getting her license, she began working as a CNA. Brookdale offered her a flexible schedule, allowing her to pursue a degree while picking up shifts on weekends or days when she didn’t have classes. She eventually worked up the courage to ask Cheryl Sarver, the executive director at the time, if she could do an internship.

“I knew at that point that I wanted to do what she did,” Ashley said. “I walked up to the front area five or six times then finally went over to her and asked her how people become an administrator and told her I really wanted to do an internship there. She didn’t hesitate. She said, ‘Yes, I’m a preceptor.’”

That internship helped Ashley develop an understanding of what it would take to become an executive director and allowed her to build a relationship with Cheryl Sarver, who eventually became a guiding force along her career path. After graduating, Ashley became a sales manager, then a marketing director at another company before being given the chance to become an executive director with Brookdale.

Cheryl, who is currently a district director of operations, says she and other Brookdale leaders are always looking for associates with drive, ambition and determination. Five out of the 12 executive directors that Cheryl oversees were promoted to their positions. Cheryl said she knew Ashely had leadership potential from the moment she was hired.

“I knew that she was an individual with the passion and the drive to succeed in this business,” Cheryl said. “She had her future pretty much thought out and that impressed me. She was using her initial job as a ladder to take her career where she wanted it to go.”

While she relishes her job as executive director, especially the relationships she has with residents and their families, Ashley said she’s open to further advancement. Brookdale is a company where Ashley, and anyone with the drive to succeed, can reach new career heights.

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Boss vs Leader

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We don’t typically circulate internal documents, but this one is too good to keep inside Brookdale’s walls. It illustrates an ongoing cultural shift towards a leadership model that empowers, supports and encourages employees. It was handed out during a recent meeting with top executives, who are focused on developing our associates and opening doors of opportunity within the company. Entitled “Don’t be a Boss, Be a Leader,” this document outlines the actions our supervisors are asked to take and the standard which they are judged against.

If you’ve spent any significant time in the workforce you’ve likely run into a boss. You know, someone who seems highly talented at barking out orders, making sure everyone knows he or she is in charge and demands work comes before family. It’s a common experience across all industries, and one that has become outdated. This style of leadership is well suited in the military, but in a company built on compassion and improving lives it just doesn’t work.

“If you dont’ have a heart and aren’t giving more than your taking you aren’t a servant leader,” said Bill Gargiulo, VP of Talent Development at Brookdale. “That really is at the center of who we are as a company.”

We find it refreshing that Brookdale took the time to create this document and that our leadership team is encouraging supervisors to become servant leaders. We invite you to take a look at how Brookdale managers are encouraged to lead by example, listen to the associates they supervise and ensure they have the tools they need to succeed. Whether you’re thinking about joining our team or not, consider what kind of person you want to work for, and if you want to be a boss or a leader.

(Click on the image below to open the full pdf.)

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The Difference Making Culture at Brookdale Communities

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We’re constantly amazed, notice I didn’t say surprised, by the ways our associates make a difference in the lives of the seniors they care for. There’s Rogerio, who got an otherwise quiet resident to sing with him. There’s Emily, who puts smiles on the faces of dementia care residents every morning by asking them to fill in the punchline of jokes. And there’s Shane, a bus driver who keeps his passengers entertained during rides with stories and jazz music.

While Brookdale is focused on the single mission of enriching the lives of our residents, we know there are many ways this can be achieved. We place great value on having a diverse team of people united by a passion to serve. There are literally thousands of opportunities for you to make a difference at Brookdale.

[Find the right position for you on the Brookdale Careers Job Search Page.]

You can see for yourself. Just take a look at these videos to see what Brookdale associates have to say about their jobs and the difference they are making.

 

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The Best at Bringing Us Good People

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We’ve been doing pretty well at finding good people, but we could be better. During the last 12 months Brookdale associates have referred more than 4,585 people through the Good People Program that were eventually hired.

Nearly 4,000 associates have made referrals. While we think everyone who’s referred a friend or family member to Brookdale deserves recognition, there are a few associates who’ve been nothing short of great at bringing us good people. We just had to share their stories.

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Genny Saint Juste
Business Office Coordinator, Brookdale West Palm Beach

Genny leads the pack when it comes to referring good people to Brookdale. She recruited eight associates in just eight months. She’s been with Brookdale since May of 2015 and has made a great impact. Well done Genny. She said referring people to Brookdale has been a way for her to pay forward the kindness of others, when she was looking for a more rewarding career.

“I needed a job and someone helped me, so I figure the best thing I can do is help someone else,” Genny said. “I explain to them how nice working with the managers here is and how wonderful the seniors are. It’s also easy to get a promotion at Brookdale and the experience you gain is life changing.”

When it comes to finding people to refer to Brookdale Genny looks for people in her neighborhood who she knows have a caring disposition. Once they are hired she checks in with them during their orientation period, letting them know she’s available to answer any questions they have.

Ashley Bassue
Receptionist, Horizon Bay Altamonte Spgs, FL

Having worked for Brookdale as a care aide, lead med tech and now a receptionist, Ashley Bassue has gotten to know our company’s culture. She’s referred several people to Brookdale, five of which were ultimately hired. Ashley’s best marketing tool is a bit more obvious than you’d think. Simply wearing her Brookdale ID badge has started many conversations that led to opportunities.

“It actually started as an accident,” Ashley explains. “I just forgot to take my badge off, and I was walking by and someone stopped me and asked if I worked for Brookdale.”

Since that first “accident” Ashley has made a point of keeping her badge on while she picks up groceries after work, or walks through her neighborhood. She’s find that people see it and become interested in who she works for and what she does there. When she finds someone who she feels would be a good fit she asks them to apply for a job.

“A lot of times you can tell within the first minutes of talking  to someone where their head is at,” Ashley said. “From there I’ll develop more of a relationship with them and can see if they are someone I should refer.”

Brandon Appling
Resident Care Associate, Brookdale Genesee Vally, Flint, MI

With Brookdale for more than two years, Brandon Appling has developed strong relationships with many residents. He enjoys hearing their stories and helping them with daily activities. He takes great pride in the work that he does, so when it comes to referring people to his supervisors he wants to make sure he’s picking the right ones.

“I’ve got to know they have a good work history,” Brandon said. “I have to know they are hard workers, even if they’ve fallen on bad times. Anyone that wants to work should be able to, but I’ve got to know them and know they are not going to mess up my name.”

Appling has referred four people to Brookdale who ended up accepting job offers. Two of those people are family members, his daughter-in-law and his sister. He’s also referred good friends.

Here’s a few tips from these stellar associates for anyone interested in recruiting good people to Brookdale.

 

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How Nurses Deal with Loss

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By David Sanchez, Brookdale Hospice Care Coordinator

One of the most common challenges nurses struggle with in their work is experiencing death in the workplace. Often, this experience brings the very real experience of grief, a strong sense of loss for the patient. Unfortunately this grief is often disenfranchised or unacknowledged. The nurse may find themselves having to bottle up the loss and push forward, usually that same day. As the losses come, we stack those traumas until we inevitably experience burnout or compassion fatigue. Recognizing the significance of death in the workplace and taking steps to process the losses can strengthen a nurse’s coping abilities and can help continue to make the work meaningful not draining.nurses (1)

Compassion comes from the Latin word “to co-suffer” and is an apt reminder that when we care for others, we can feel great pain ourselves. When we make a connection with a patient and their family we will experience loss when the patient dies. The common symptoms of grief: loss of focus, heightened emotions, fatigue, distraction, etc. can affect the life of a nurse at work and at home. Compassion fatigue occurs when we are emotionally tired but continue to do demanding physical and emotional care. It’s similar to being “in the red” and instead of stopping to re-charge our batteries, we simply chug along. Even though it’s been identified as a real experience for decades, it’s often been considered simply “the cost of care”.

The way that a nurse can support herself through the traumatization of multiple losses in the workplace is to find positive ways to express the grief. Grief needs to be expressed since the alternate approach, bottling the feelings, leads to compassion fatigue. Grief is expressed in whatever way speaks to the strength of the nurse. Sometimes nurses write a letter to patient, getting out in words their feelings of connection. Some nurses plant a garden to symbolize the people served or meet with co-workers to toast someone significant or bring in a pot luck of their favorite foods. Creating a ritual to express the grief and to celebrate the person who impacted their life helps deal with the long term effects of caregiving when death occurs.

Self-care is the other necessary component of dealing with grief and avoiding compassion fatigue. Nurses are givers by nature and learning how to take care of yourself is a critical skill. Re-charging our batteries keeps us strong as caregivers and can be done as a small, daily activity. The music we take time to listen to in our car, the treat we give ourselves at the end of the day, the breathing exercises we do as we remove our badge are all ways we can take a minute here and there to re-charge. Even taking 10 minutes to stop and drink a coffee instead of drinking as we go can make a huge difference in our mood. Self-care should be fun and energizing and individualized to the nurse.

Recognizing grief, committing time for self care, and finding support from peers can help all nurses navigate a death in the workplace so that they can continue the meaningful work of care.

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Former Hospital Nurse Bonds to Senior Living

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Like many nurses who’ve joined Brookdale, Whitni Allen was looking to leave behind the stress of the hospital environment and toll of being on her feet for 12-hour shifts. Allen, the health and wellness director at Brookdale Texarkana, found that a career in assisted living came with an even better benefit, the opportunity to create close bonds with the residents she cares for.

“In a long-term setting you get to know your residents and really create a relationship with them,” Allen said. “You get to know their families too. Where in the hospital setting the turnover could be daily.” nurses (1)

Allen’s role as a health and wellness director is a depature from more traditional nurse work, which centers on hand-on care. She uses her nurse experience to manage and make strategic decisions about the community’s direction and culture. The choice to leave the hospital scene and take a leadership position is one that Allen feels good about for a number of reasons.

“The 12-hour shifts and having to be on your feet all day is what drove me away from the hospital,” Allen said. “No one can do that forever. Plus the money is better in long-term care than it is in the hospital.”

Allen leads 10 resident care associates who provide direct care, conducts health assessments, oversees medication management and helps hire and train new team members. Building relationships is a key aspect of her job.

“I talk to residents’ families all the time,” she said. “Not only do I let them know if there is a change in their loved one’s health status, I will call when positive things happen. When a resident begins to blossom here, make new friends, get involved in new activities, I let their families know.”

Most important to Allen is creating bonds with the seniors. “When I arrive in the morning, I go into the dining room where they are having breakfast and help pass out coffee so I can say hello to everyone and see how they are. If a resident isn’t there, I check to see if they are all right. Sometimes what someone needs is a hug to let them know they are loved.”

She has suggested to other nurses that they consider working at Brookdale. “This company is concerned about its associates and does what’s needed to help us succeed. Brookdale really makes us feel appreciated.”

Search for opportunities to make a difference on our job search page.

 

 

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