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Executive director ready to start saying ‘yes’ again

At the end of June, Christian Gilbert celebrated his one-year anniversary as the executive director of Salina Presbyterian Manor.

“It’s been a little busy,” acknowledged Christian, who spent the first several months of his tenure battling COVID-19 outbreaks.

His introduction to his staff came in the midst of a crisis.

“It was a humbling experience to see how quickly the team jumped into action to make sure we’re making the best decisions to keep people safe,” he said.

The staff decorated Christian’s office with flamingos for his birthday.

Usually, a new leader will spend the first few weeks of their tenure getting to know their employees, but it was hard to build relationships with when it wasn’t possible to meet in person.

The inability to gather for a sustained period of time made Christian appreciate the importance of celebrating as a community. It’s a way to connect with residents and their families — and staff members, too.

“One of my favorite parts of working in this industry are the celebrations we have together,” Christian said.

Most people celebrate holidays and birthdays, wedding anniversaries and retirements. But at Presbyterian Manor, “we celebrate everything from birthdays to national paperclip day,” he said.

It’s one of the joyful parts of working in the senior living field and Christian thinks remembering that joy is what kept long-standing employees coming back to Presbyterian Manor day after day.

“The staff who were with us before COVID stuck with us,” Christian said. “Knowing what it was like before and will be again has kept us around.”

For the past few months, Christian has engaged in the kind of relationship and team-building that the pandemic interrupted. That’s allowed him to focus on “areas of opportunity” for improvement.

“Going forward, we’re going to have a pretty heavy focus on QAPI,” he said. The acronym stands for Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement.

Christian and his team “scour through data,” including resident surveys, to identify areas where they can improve. This can be anything, from health care delivery to improving paperwork.

“This is something we work on as a team, and when we’re successful, we celebrate our success as a team,” Christian said.

Now that the community is no longer in crisis, leadership is also refocused on its usual priorities.

“We don’t just provide care, we provide a lifestyle,” Christian said. “We’re figuring out how to bring that lifestyle back.

“I feel like the guy who has had to say ‘no’ for a year, and that’s been challenging, because we’re a ‘yes’ culture.”

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