We are pleased to introduce Oak Knoll Healthcare Center’s new administration team – Administrator Anthony Wriston and Director of Nursing Francesca Caramante.
We recently met and discussed their goals as Oak Knoll Healthcare Center’s new ‘dream team’: to foster a positive and collaborative work environment to ensure that residents receive the highest standard of services and care. We are proud to have you both at Oak Knoll to lead our team!
Francesca, in your bio, you stated that you have a strong desire to help others. Does that desire come from any personal experiences growing up?
F: Yes, that desire comes from growing up with both of my grandparents, spending extra time with them doing what they loved, playing cards and talking about the weather. I decided on a nursing career because I wanted to make an actual impact on the people around me. Being in a leadership position as a nurse, I realized I could effectively make change in order to do what’s right to deliver the best nursing care to the people around me, but also support my fellow nurses and caretakers, being the decision-maker, I have more say in changing the atmosphere and culture around me.
Anthony, what got you into your career path that led to nursing home administration?
A: Originally I moved to Massachusetts to pursue a degree in Art Therapy while at the same time I was working at an assisted living facility to support myself. That is when I fell in love with working with the elderly population. I moved over to a nursing home in the activities department in hopes of utilizing my core values and education while also building my career. Eventually, I moved into administrative roles in the business office and admissions, and realized that I wanted to take on a leadership position. When COVID first started, it really solidified for me that I wanted to be an administrator. Many of the staff were out sick or had left the industry and there were just a couple of us there day after day trying to keep the facility together, consoling staff, being with the residents when their families couldn’t be. That’s when I realized that I had the power to truly make a difference, by stepping into the role as administrator.
Francesca, you mentioned that you are particularly passionate about advocating for the geriatric population. What challenges do you see for this population in these times, post-COVID?
F: I would say with COVID, a big thing for the elderly residents was isolation. In working to overcome that isolation, our activities department just recently implemented / reinstated the use of the dining room for dinner time – and all of Whittier is implementing the use of the dining rooms again to give residents another reason to get together and socialize. That’s a huge thing… even before COVID, when people think of nursing homes, people often think of isolation and say, ‘oh no you’re going to get put in a nursing home.’ We are working to fight against the stigma around nursing homes. The people at Oak Knoll are here to really make sure that residents and patients are getting adequate socialization to make the most of their days.
Anthony, can you add what you are trying to help or address?
A: Nursing homes were hit very hard during COVID. People had certain perceptions of nursing homes before, but even more so, after COVID. So I think it’s been really challenging in terms of reframing peoples’ perceptions of nursing homes: that we are still here, and have been, the entire time to care for their loved ones – they become like our own family whether it is for short-term rehabilitation or long-term care. Healthcare workers are still struggling with burnout and, as a whole, I don’t think most have even been able to process the trauma we’ve been through collectively. I want to get back to the fundamentals of care, and provide a safe, supportive space for my residents, families and staff and change people’s perceptions. One does not define us all.
F: People have their own ideas and beliefs of what a nursing home is, and I honestly think that Oak Knoll actually is a lot different than other nursing homes – in fact, all of Whittier Health Network is – we are privately owned by people who prioritize and stand behind their staff and the care we deliver. They always want to ensure our patients and residents maintain their dignity while receiving the best care possible. That culture allows us to be different and I have witnessed there is an immense difference between our facilities and other nursing homes. So if someone were to want to put their family member in short-term rehabilitation or long-term care, this would be the facility to choose.
Can you elaborate on why Oak Knoll is the facility to choose?
F: To start, I would say it’s the staff consistency. We are fully staffed for CNAs, we do not use any agency CNAs. We have people who have been here for years: for 25 years, 20 years, 15 – some big numbers for consistent care! I think that people don’t just stick around in environments that are not a good place to be in. So that’s huge in making a difference for the residents, because the people that they are talking to really care, they’re not just talking to someone who is coming in once and is leaving, they are talking to someone that’s been there for a long time and intends to continue to be there. This fosters meaningful relationships between our staff and residents throughout the building.
What challenges have you seen that nursing homes face in these times that you are addressing?
F: Of course nursing staffing is always a challenge, but also, nursing homes have many guidelines to adhere to in order to receive funding and remain open for business. Insurance guidelines, state laws and financial burdens etc. We are always navigating to make sure we have the proper systems in place. There are also daily challenges as far as organizing a team and making sure everyone is on the same page. I would say that everyone at Oak Knoll does their part in organizing and holding meetings with every single person in every single department – whether it’s CNA meetings, or Director of Nursing meetings, Administration calls – we meet with everybody across each department to get everyone on the same page for the best patient outcomes.
What are your goals and changes you would like to make to improve the facility as a whole?
F: Our goal is for there to be a seamless transition of care from the hospital, to here, to home. For the staff to feel supported and to have the tools they need to do their job exceptionally well. We are hoping to see the fruits of our labor rewarded and confirmed with positive patient surveys and rave reviews of the facility on all social networks. We are committed to addressing all issues or areas for improvement, and to work with our staff to problem solve and prioritize open communication among all departments.
A: I would say that one of my biggest things as an Administrator is to lead by example. I am all about providing exceptional customer service, a great patient experience, as well as ensuring high employee engagement and morale. I think that those all go hand in hand – if you have happy employees you are going to have a better patient experience and better overall quality within the nursing home. No matter the challenges that all nursing homes face, if the resident or patient had a pleasant experience and enjoyed their interactions with the staff here, they will want to recommend Oak Knoll to others who need short-term rehabilitation or long-term care. If they ever require rehabilitation services, they will choose to come back to Oak Knoll. You can feel the difference in a facility that upholds those values!
Any advice for those who need a care facility for short-term care? That could be anyone – me or you – anyone needing rehabilitation after surgery or illness.
F: I would advise people to look at the rehabilitation department and to know who the Director of Nursing is – it makes a difference when you are entering or considering a facility for rehabilitation to know a little bit about how the process will work ahead of time. People don’t necessarily know what it’s going to be like.
A: I agree with Francesca. I think people have expectations when they come here and they can be taken aback by the experience and process. It should be clear to them that short-term rehab is a stepping stone back to the community so that they can regain their independence. The process may take longer than expected, there will be challenges or they may not reach the same level of independence as before, but we are here to work with you and set goals to get you there!
Do you have any advice to help guide those who are selecting a facility for a loved one for long-term care?
A: I think the most important thing for long-term care in a nursing home is the overall feeling you get when you walk in the door: is it warm and welcoming with staff that are engaged and friendly? Also, know that every single person has rights while living here. This is now their home – they have a right to a comfortable, home-like environment, that is person-centered for their needs. I think those are the most important things to consider when you are trying to find a placement for your loved one for long-term care.
F: I would also add that for people looking, location is huge. I would say that Oak Knoll’s location is prime – it’s tucked in the back of a neighborhood, surrounded by trees, and across the street is somebody’s home, so you’re in a whole neighborhood setting. When you pull up to Oak Knoll, you feel like your loved one is in a neighborhood home, living with extended family who care about them.
More about Anthony and Francesca.
Anthony’s commitment to quality care is evident through his achievement of the QAPI (Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement) certification. He is dedicated to enhancing the overall quality of care delivered in nursing home settings, and fostering a positive and collaborative work environment to ensure that residents receive the highest standard of services at Oak Knoll Healthcare Center.
Francesca provides clinical oversight for both the long and short-term units. She finds fulfillment in her role as the Director of Nursing because she prioritizes making a positive impact on others. She is committed to ensuring that families and residents feel confident in their choices and strives to exceed their expectations as a part of Whittier Health Network.
At Oak Knoll Healthcare Center, we are dedicated to providing progressive and compassionate care. While committed to treating your family as if they are our own, we tend to the comprehensive aspects of wellness. From complex medical, to rehabilitative, to spiritual, and emotional care, every individualized need is fulfilled to attain the highest sense of independence and well-being for our patients and residents.