Kelly Hayes, Unit Manager at Beneva Lakes, began her career in health care as a CNA at the young age of 19. Yet her origins in this field stem from her earliest formative years. She explained how she grew up with a chronically ill parent, and over time, gathered more and more knowledge and insight about health care. This sparked her desire to pursue a career caring for others’ medical needs.

When she nailed down her precise niche within the health care industry, she knew. “Once I started working in geriatrics, I absolutely loved it. Every patient had a story, every patient was very interesting to me. They were young once, too. I learned a lot from my patients.”

This deep respect and love for patients has driven her to stay in the long-term care scene for 20 years now. “It’s an amazing feeling when you see a patient that has dementia or confusion, and they smile, and their eyes just light up because they recognize you. Because they see you everyday. For a lot of these residents, the nursing staff is all they have left. These residents rely on us for way more than just caring for their healthbut for their emotional needs, too.”

“Once I started working in geriatrics, I absolutely loved it. Every patient had a story, every patient was very interesting to me. They were young once, too. I learned a lot from my patients.”

However, it hasn’t been an easy journey by any means, and the road keeps changing, twisting, and turning by the mile. Hayes has had a front-row seat to the evolution of long-term care. She said the crowd of residents has shifted in the past two decades. Because of the opioid addiction epidemic, the age range of patients has expanded to include younger generations.

“The needs within our community have shifted, so that it’s a long-term care for every age group. There are no nursing homes. It is now a long-term care facility for all ages. The type of patients have changed, and it is challenging. Times have changed.”

Fortunately, the Beneva Lakes staff is a tight-knit group that, to Hayes, feels more like a family. “We’re very happythe staff is like family, because many of us have been here for numerous years. We’ve been together for so many years, we can depend on each other for many things. We laugh, we have fun, we’re serious… Because a lot of us have longevity, we’re committed. We have many nurses [at Beneva Lakes] who have been here for over 10 years.”

The familial-like community at Beneva Lakes is not the only benefit. Hayes recently emerged a top winner of Consulate’s OnShift Engage program. Because of her consistent punctuality, dedication, strong work ethic, and heart for the residents, she racked up pointswhich turned into Consulate swag and an Apple iPad! Now Hayes has entered the Engage drawing to win a cruise vacation for two.

However, there’s more to OnShift Engage than just material goods. Hayes explained that the program has positively influenced the community at Beneva Lakes: “So many of our staff members are waiting for that cruise drawing. It has motivated our staff members, they’re on time more, they’ve picked up extra shifts. It has decreased a bit of the turnover when they see us win stuff in drawings. They attend more meetings, they’re more interactive at the meetings. . . It has helped us with our staffing needs. The state of Florida has such a demand for health care providers.”

While the fun prizes boost morale, increase punctuality, and more, Hayes also praised the Engage Wallet program, which helps staff members fulfill more practical daily financial needs, like flat tires, unexpected emergencies, rent, et cetera.

“The [Engage Wallet] has been a huge support to our staff members. Not every nursing home has that. It keeps our employees able to come to work. . . because they can get that new tire, or make rent… because a lot of people can’t wait two weeks until the next pay day. That’s been a huge benefit. . .  On a day-to day basis, the [Engage Wallet] program makes a huge difference.” Hayes said it even helped her provide her daughter’s school tuition on time.

Whether you know it or not, behind each and every successful HR initiative, is a dedicated and enthusiastic Human Resources Coordinator. Hayes was eager to compliment the Beneva Lakes Human Resources Coordinator, Roy Sosa, whom she says, “makes the Engage program fun.” He turns an ordinary incentive into an LOL-filled party.

Hayes has three young adult children whom she’s very proud of, and her passion for high-caliber long-term care must have worn off, as her 21-year-old daughter is now a nurse. At the end of the day, Hayes’s advice for others in the long-term health care field reaches deeper than fun HR incentives and cruise vacation drawings: “In long-term care, and health care alone, good and bad days come and go. Stick it out, stay with the building you’re working at. It really benefits you down the road, that consistency of maintaining employment with one facility, because the community cares about you, since you’ve formed a reputation. . . I don’t have to drive 45 minutes to get to work. I’m close to home, and I bought a house just three minutes away from work. Good days come and go, bad days come and go. Maintaining stable employment pays off in the future. It makes a difference.”