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Professional conduct helps you create successful relationships and a positive working environment. It lets residents, staff and families know you are competent, reliable and respectful.
What Is Professionalism?
A professional is considered someone who is competent, and not an amateur. A professional is confident in their skills but always ready to learn something new in order to improve. As Activity Professionals, we owe it to ourselves, our residents, and to other Activity Professionals to act like the professionals we are.
Professionalism doesn’t necessarily mean you have to know everything about your role or industry. Senior living is always changing and evolving; everyone is always learning new interventions or best practices that allow us to serve residents even better. However, acting professionally does make it easier for residents and family members to trust that we indeed know what we are doing.
12 Habits That Make You Look Professional
Professionalism is especially important in senior living. Being professional in your role can include:
- Charting and documenting on time, and with professional language
- Showing up to work on time and expecting the same for your staff
- Promptly responding to residents or family members
- Attending and participating in care plan meetings, interdisciplinary committees, or other gatherings to discuss resident care
- Using person-first language and addressing residents how they prefer to be addressed
- Finding creative ways to offer person-centred care
- Coming at problems with potential solutions and not just challenges
- Not gossiping about residents, family members, or other staff members
- Wearing professional clothing, including your name badge
- Contributing to the plan of care for each resident
- Attending ongoing education and training opportunities
- Choosing to not become “friends” with family members or residents with your personal social media accounts
16 Tips for Professional Communication
A hallmark trait of a seasoned Activity Professional is the ability to communicate effectively with residents, family members and staff. When you are communicating at work, whether verbally, via email, or while documenting, it is important to keep these professional habits in mind:
- Choose to listen first
- Resist being defensive
- Summarize what you heard from the person and double-check that you understood what they need or are concerned about
- Never use “text speak” or emojis. Instead, use full and complete sentences.
- Never use chart abbreviations in emails or other correspondence
- If emailing, use the “reply all” button if everyone on the chain needs to stay informed of your response
- Try not to use industry jargon when chatting with residents or family members
- Approach problems creatively to find a solution
- If you say you are going to follow up or respond by a certain time, meet that deadline
- Never ignore a certain resident or family member
- Don’t share personal or sensitive information with family members who are not the emergency contact on file or healthcare/financial POA
- Don’t gossip or talk about other residents
- Document your conversations after the fact if you are worried you will forget what was said
- Never be afraid to apologize if you are in the wrong
- Never be afraid to ask for help or for your supervisor to sit in on the meeting with you
- At the end of a meeting, review the action items outstanding and who is in charge of them. (for example, “Thanks for sharing your concerns about the outings with me, Mr. Thompson. I’m going to follow up with our bus company to ensure we have the supplies we need to secure your dad’s wheelchair next time.”)
Choose Your Words Carefully
When you are communicating with anyone as a representative of your department and community, make sure you choose your words carefully.
- Don’t place blame on another department or person
- Don’t use excuses or be defensive
- Use tools like spell check or Grammarly to ensure you are not making any silly mistakes
- Don’t use abbreviations like LOL or FWIW in any correspondence, no matter how informal
Glossary of Professional Terms
The senior living industry has its own jargon, or words specific to this industry. Here are a few that you might use on a regular basis:
- Interdisciplinary team (IDT): a team made up of the Directors or representative of the different departments that care for a resident, like dining, activities, and nursing
- Person-first language: talking about residents using their name first, like saying “Helen who was dementia” instead of “the confused lady in room 300”
- Person-centered care: putting the resident’s needs at the centre of their plan of care and interventions
- Aging in place: the concept of finding supports and resources to keep a senior living in their home successfully as long as possible (their home can include their apartment in your community)
- Community partners: potential referral sources throughout your community, or organizations you work with regularly like the local library, hospital, or park district
- Activities of Daily Living (ADLs): tasks performed while living independently (dressing, bathing, eating, toileting, etc.)
- Advance Directive: Tools like a living will, power of attorney, or DNR (do not resuscitate) orders that give residents the opportunity to express what they want
- Self-determination: making decisions for yourself, on behalf of yourself
You can find an even more comprehensive list here.
Remember, you can be professional without losing your fun and creative personality. I’d love to hear how you strike the balance between remaining professional and a leader without losing your fun-loving attitude that your residents love.