By KIM ESTES ELLIOTT, Senior Vice President of Clinical Services, Brookdale Senior Living
Not all nursing paths lead to a hospital or doctor’s office. I followed a calling to help America’s aging population and built a career in the senior living industry. I wanted to make connections that lasted longer than a hospital stay or checkup.
Back when I was a nursing student, many of my classmates were eager to find work in an emergency room, operating room or a doctor’s office. I wanted to treat more than symptoms or wounds. I felt a calling to holistically invest in the whole person, which is the job description for senior living nurses. It is a calling that permanently steered the direction of my career. Today, I advocate for exceptional care and innovation in senior living and am constantly looking for ways to recruit the next generation of nurses to my cause.
My love for the senior population dates back to the day I visited a nursing home as part of required training during nursing school. Today, I’m working to expose every nursing student to the meaningful work of senior living. That’s a big reason I joined the Dean’s Advisory Board at the University of Central Florida School of Nursing. Surprisingly, many nursing students don’t consider this career path. Brookdale’s health and wellness directors aren’t just providing bedside care to six patients for a 12-hour shift; they are using their knowledge and clinical skills to have a major impact on the lives of all the people who live in their community. Nothing is more rewarding than building relationships and changing lives for the better … and you don’t need scrubs to do that.
A few years ago, I met a nursing student named Madison at a local coffee shop, and we started talking about my personal career path, which sparked her interest. I later invited her to shadow me at our corporate office and scheduled a visit to Brookdale Hendersonville so she could get a feel of what it’s like to work in a community.
Madison fell in love with the work, and I helped her lay out a post-graduation plan with a mission of growing her career at Brookdale. Upon graduation, Madison accepted a job with Brookdale as a Health and Wellness Coordinator in Rhode Island. She is passionate about her work and relishes building long-lasting relationships with residents and families. A chance meeting led to a thriving career. I wish I could mentor every nursing student, and help them find a similar path
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a shortfall of nurses will exceed 1 million by 2024. However, people 65 and older are expected to comprise 16 percent of America’s population by 2020 and nearly 20 percent by 2030, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Even more alarming, the National Council on Aging notes an uptick in chronic conditions. At least 80 percent of people 65 and older have at least one chronic medical condition, and more than 77 percent have two. Bottom line: there are more seniors than ever before, many struggling with major health conditions, and fewer nurses to care for them.
At Brookdale, we have the privilege of managing these challenges while also helping seniors live their optimum life. We operate nearly 900 communities in 46 states and have the ability to care for more than 100,000 residents. In these communities, Brookdale hires nurses as Health and Wellness Directors who are responsible for overseeing clinical services including maintaining standards, leading health and wellness programming, and managing care associates. They take an important leadership role in our communities, and we prepare them not only for managing care associates but also to be strategic, inspirational leaders. The work offers opportunity to advance to higher-level leadership positions at the district, regional and corporate levels.
It is a different path than traditional hospital nursing. Rather than treating acute illnesses, these nurses shape the overall quality and content of care residents receive on a daily basis. It is truly a culture of wellness in a clinical world. This rewarding role develops leadership skills, business acumen and wellness coaching.
Kim Estes Elliott has a master’s degree in Nursing Executive Specialty Track from Chamberlain College of Nursing and is proficient in building and leading clinical programs to meet regulatory compliance and accreditation standards while exceeding clinical quality goals. She successfully maintains the highest ethical standards while developing and implementing corporate processes and policies for Brookdale communities. Kim also serves on the Argentum Clinical Quality Executive Roundtable, is on the Dean’s Advisory Board for the Central Florida University School of Nursing and is a member of the Nightingale Society.
About Brookdale Senior Living
Brookdale Senior Living Inc. is the leading operator of senior living communities throughout the United States. The Company is committed to providing senior living solutions primarily within properties that are designed, purpose-built and operated to provide the highest-quality service, care and living accommodations for residents. Brookdale operates and manages independent living, assisted living, memory care and continuing care retirement centers, with approximately 892 communities in 45 states and the ability to serve approximately 84,000 residents as of December 31, 2018. The Company also offers a range of home health, hospice and outpatient therapy services.