Planning and coordinating an activity program for a nursing home or senior living community is fun and rewarding. Activity programs are often the lifeblood of care communities. Activity Coordinators are often one of the most frequent points of contact for seniors, their friends and family members. Therefore, this role has the privilege of being able to build close relationships with their participants. Activity professionals make a huge difference in the lives of seniors by bringing a lot of life, meaning and enjoyment to the environment.
However, most Activity Coordinators will tell you that their job isn’t all fun and games. In fact, despite the various roles they juggle day-in and day-out (marketing, food service, transport, activity planning, caregiving, etc), they tend to be paid significantly lower wages than their colleagues. Activity professionals often have to manage with small budgets and dwindling resources, stifling creativity. Additionally, many Activity Coordinators face compassion fatigue and burnout from the demands and stresses of their role. This is especially true if they are working alone without other Activities staff. Burnout can be brought on by a lack of boundaries around work duties, feeling undervalued and unsupported by management, heavy caseloads and difficulty meeting the requests of families, residents and staff on their own.
It isn’t enough to simply focus on the rewarding parts of being an Activity Coordinator. One must be proactive about self-care and taking steps to ensure a healthy work environment for themselves. Here are some tips for staying passionate about your role and preventing burnout at work.
Continue Learning New Things
As an Activity Coordinator, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Consuming new ideas, strategies and ways of improving delivery is stimulating for the mind. It also keeps you inspired about going to work and implementing what you’ve learned. Ask your employer if they will invest in your continued learning. This could look like sponsoring you to take a new certification class or attend a workshop or conference. Not possible? Then visiting another senior living community can be a great, no-cost opportunity to learn. On your visit, speak with residents, make note of their activity offerings, and find ideas that you can take and implement in your community.
Build Your Team
Feeling alone at work will quickly extinguish any passion you bring to the table. If you’re getting an “it’s me against the world” feeling, take some time to build relationships with colleagues. Ask for their input on a new idea over coffee. Come up with ways to communicate how important their cooperation is and how much-added value it brings to your efforts. It helps when you can pinpoint a shared goal and collaborate with other staff. Getting them to care about your projects and be involved in the outcomes will help them to feel invested in you and your work.
Schedule in Time for You
One thing that will go a long way in improving job satisfaction is regularly scheduling in something that you look forward to. Even if it’s just 15 minutes of daily self-care, the key is to be consistent. Schedule it in so that you have intentionally carved time out for it and won’t make excuses for skipping it. Just like a car needs regular maintenance to keep it running, you need a little time to recharge your battery so that you can keep doing your job well. Another idea is to make sure that you’re engaging with your favorite aspect of your job on a daily or weekly basis. If you love one-on-one interactions with residents, then make sure once a week you have coffee time with a specific individual. Doing this helps you to reflect on what drew you to this profession in the first place. Tapping into those feelings will ward off burnout and keep you satisfied at work.
Validate Your Work
If you find it difficult to evidence the value of your work, you are not alone. Whether it’s fighting for a budget increase or trying to convince management that you need a teammate, it’s hard to gather data in support of your argument. Think about which data points senior leadership would want to see and track them. Whether you utilize an activity director software like StoriiCare, or you develop record-keeping skills, having analytics will give you the confidence to push for whatever resources you need. Management and other stakeholders are likely to respond to, and be impressed by, your provision of data-driven evidence.
Make a Change
Sometimes getting itchy feet at work is simply a sign that you need a change. Recognizing what needs changing may involve a bit of reflection. For instance, think about what area of your job causes the most stress or anxiety. Is there a boundary you could implement or a task you could delegate elsewhere? If you’re feeling bored with the routine, is there a new project you could work on? If you’re feeling overwhelmed and struggling to complete your to-do list, is there an app or software you could use to digitize some of your workflows and save you time?