March 23, 2022

An update on Kline Galland’s Healthcare Heroes: Q&A with Chief Human Resource Officer Shelly Ryan

Recently, we sat down with Shelly Ryan, who has been Kline Galland’s Chief of Human Resources for nine years. Shelly shared an inside perspective on some of the experiences and challenges that Kline Galland’s employees have faced during a global pandemic, as well as stories of the “heroes” of Kline Galland and moments of resiliency.

Here’s our Q&A:

Q: What have the last couple of years been like for Kline Galland’s staff? 

A: The last two years have been intense to say the least. I remember the first few months when we were hearing horrific stories about COVID-19 and didn’t know what to expect. It was a frightening time for so many of our staff and their families, and yet they showed up every day to care for their residents, patients and clients. I know many healthcare organizations chose to have all non-direct care staff work remotely but we made a conscious decision to show up for our staff as they were showing up for our residents and patients. It was important to support our staff, deal with supply issues and generally keep our finger on the pulse of what was happening in our facilities and we are grateful we did.

Q: How vital of a role have healthcare workers played during the pandemic? 

A: There are no words to adequately express the sheer determination, professionalism, compassion and stamina of our healthcare workers and how much we admire and appreciate them. That could be said globally, but of course I want to specifically recognize our Kline Galland healthcare heroes, because that’s truly what they are. It was inspiring to see our staff jump in to do whatever needed to be done – from getting tested constantly to wearing full PPE in the hot summer months to volunteering to work in the Cohort unit where there was active COVID-19 patients and residents – they were amazing and genuinely heroic.

Q: How has Kline Galland kept morale up amongst staff members? 

A: Early on, we set up town hall meetings with Jeff Cohen (CEO), Min An (COO), the administrators and all staff on at least a weekly basis. This was crucial during the worst of the pandemic to keep everyone informed, listen to feedback, have a little fun and generally bond our team together. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as connected to the staff, and I know our senior team feels the same. However, it’s true the stress of the pandemic affected our staff and healthcare workers in general in multiple ways.  From shifting to at home schooling, arranging child care, getting Covid, not seeing extended family – it was a lot to handle.. Working through sustained intensity takes a toll on the body, soul and spirit. In order to help with this, we offered a number of resources through our Employee Assistance Program and our medical insurance to deal with COVID-19 stressors. We also hosted fun events and extra touches of kindness where we could and throughout everything, we spent time listening to our staff and recognizing that we were all in this together. There is strength in numbers.

Q: What are some of the small acts of kindness that have kept staff motivated? 

A: During the pandemic we started bringing in food trucks – really good food trucks that allowed us to socially distance our staff and yet have wonderful, individually prepared meals in a fun atmosphere. We had snacks and drinks in the employee lounges. We had food carts that our HR team would push around with music and a treat – an activity we call “Random Acts of Klineness.” We gave out amazing sweatshirts that featured Kline Galland’s “do the right thing” tagline paired with a superhero logo. We also gave a hero’s bonus to all staff and surprised them regularly with random raffle prizes and gift cards.

Q: Are there any particularly touching moments that stick out from the last couple years? 

A: There are so many. I remember early on a family from Puyallup came up with a giant basket full of goodies for our staff, cards and letters addressed to our healthcare heroes from our community, people sewing masks and gowns for our staff, a religious disaster team who ended up providing us with almost a half a million masks, seeing our brave staff in full hazmat suits in the Cohort unit with a thumbs up, staff who sacrificed family events and important milestone celebrations to ensure they would be safe for the residents, our managers who were on call 24/7 to make sure we have adequate staffing and stay on top of issues, exhausted staff comforting families who lost loved ones during this time. And the first vaccine clinic was a very special day. It was a party atmosphere and we were all celebrating but it was also the first time there was hope and the sense of relief was palpable. Too many incredible moments to name them all. 

Q: What makes Kline Galland’s employees so special? 

A: You have to have a huge heart to want to work in long-term care and our staff exceeds that requirement by a wide margin. We have employees that have been here for decades as well as generations of families who have worked for Kline Galland and are deeply committed to who we are and what we do. We also have students from nursing schools who come to us and provide beautiful care until school calls them away, we are so thankful for their shorter season of time. That level of compassion and care leaves an impression on the fabric of Kline Galland that layers year after year and creates a solid, strong foundation of many wonderful professionals who together have made Kline Galland the amazing place it is.

Q: What message do you want to share with Kline Galland’s employees? 

A: We appreciate you beyond words. Stay with us –we’ll invest in you. We have many opportunities for learning and growing and believe together we can make a difference. We believe in Kline Galland and we believe in you. So, talk with us, give us feedback, let us know what more we can do. You are individually important to us. Not just as a workforce but as terrific people who bring a huge heart every day to care for our seniors and patients. We honor, respect and admire you.  

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