Q&A with Annie Grealish, Best of Care’s Human Resources Director
Annie Grealish has a knack for spotting talented home caregivers. After working for many years as a caregiver herself, she joined Best of Care Inc. two years ago as its human resources director, working from the company’s Raynham office.
Q: How did you get into the home care field?
A: Before joining the Best Of Care team, I spent eight years as a caregiver, caring for the elderly in the Boston area. Although I have a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Forensic Psychology, my years as a caregiver really aided in changing my career direction to geriatric care.
Q: What was the most challenging part of making the shift from caregiver to HR Director?
A: The most challenging aspect was to acclimate myself to the business side of caregiving. After dedicating years on the personal side, working in client’s homes and providing direct care, I’ve transitioned into a completely new role with a different company.
Q: How does Best of Care find qualified home health aides?
A: Caregiving is in many people’s nature, and we look for that special nurturing quality in our employees. Professional caregivers build on their kind, helpful nature with formal in-class and in-the-field training and certification.
We recruit home health aides in a variety of ways, including CraigsList and Indeed.com. We have strong working relationships with the Red Cross in Brockton and Quincy (Mass), and more recently with Catholic Charities in Brockton and South Boston, which offer 75-hour home health aide training sessions every few months. Upon graduation from the training facility, the graduate has the credentials to work as a home health aide. At Best of Care, we require that all new hires pass a detailed exam before they begin working out in the field.
We go to the Red Cross and Catholic Charities home health aide training programs and talk to students and graduates about how Best of Care operates as a company and what they can expect if we hire them. I talk about how we work as a team to communicate and deliver individualized service and address issues. We want to help new aides feel comfortable that they are never alone in any situation. For example, if a home health aide sees that a client’s dementia is getting worse, it’s important that they call the office and report concerns immediately to their supervisor. We want new employees to know that when they go into a home and care for one of our clients, they have the full support of our administrative staff, homemaking field supervisors and our nursing department at all times.
Q: What do you look for when you screen and interview prospective home health aides?
A: The people we consider hiring as home health aides must meet very specific criteria. I look for people who are patient and kind with positive energy and great communications skills. We look for candidates who have empathy for the elderly and can perceive small changes in a clients behavior or health status. They must have the emotional intelligence and common sense to communicate, follow protocols and report both positive and negative incidents to Best of Care’s nursing team.
Q: Beyond the initial interview, how do you screen home health aide candidates?
A: We talk with a candidate’s home health aide program instructor, who often becomes one of the two professional references they provide us. The candidate must have scored at least 80% on their home health aide exam. We check every candidate with the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Registry to make sure they have completed a home health aide training program, are licensed and do not have any reported incidents on their record. Candidates must have a drivers license and an insured vehicle at their disposal. We run background checks on every candidate through private agencies that track criminal records at both state and national levels and with the Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Once we’ve hired a home health aide, we continue to check their records with the OIG every month.
Q: What happens after you hire a home health aide?
A: New home health aides at Best of Care go through a small group orientation that stresses documentation and communication. We use humor and compassion to share our vast experiences in caring for our elderly and disabled clients. Our homemaking supervisors or nurses come in regularly to get to know the new employees.
Q: How many home health aides do you typically hire per year?
A: Over past two years we have recruited approximately 130 caregivers per year between Best of Care’s four office locations. All of our home health aides have completed the 75 hour training program with organizations such as the Red Cross and Catholic Charities.
Q: How do you encourage your employees to continue their education and career growth in home care?
A: As a company, we are always learning and growing. We continually encourage our employees to go the next step in their education, to pursue new certifications and degrees. We’re always providing information that can help them on this path; for example, WalMart is providing scholarships for certified nurse assistant training!
Best of Care also conducts regular in-service sessions for our caregivers on a number of topics. For example, one recent session covered sexually-transmitted disease and how it can apply in a home care setting.
We are working on developing our own home health aide training program, which will include a conversion program for active certified nursing assistants to become home health aides. We’re targeting a fall 2015 launch for this program, which can help us train aides for our clients in greater Boston and the South Shore, as well as our new clients on Cape Cod.
Q: What drives your work in bringing new employees to Best of Care?
A: I am motivated to bring the very best employees to this agency because we will not accept anything less than top quality care. I’m very fortunate to work for a close-knit company; I feel a close connection with my field staff and everyone who works out of our regional offices.