When Clara Palm took over last June as the administrator at the Good Samaritan Society – Comforcare in Austin, Minnesota, it didn’t take her long to make an impact on staff and its 45 residents.
“I knew, from the first day she worked with me, she was going to be the best thing that’s happened to this center and she has been,” Kevin Breault, Society ancillary services supervisor, says.
The location had been without an administrator in the building daily for 18 months during a pandemic.
“I really feel God brought her to our building. We went so long without a full-time administrator because God knew that we needed Clara,” Jenna Crooks, RN, director of nursing, says.
Clara’s two teammates say she’s constantly stepping up and stepping in to make sure residents get the highest quality care possible. Jenna remembers spotting Clara, early one morning, helping in the kitchen when the team was low on staff.
“She acted like it was nothing. Like it was a part of her job. That meant a lot to me,” Jenna says. “She scrubs bathroom floors. She scrubs toilets. She decorates Christmas trees. She participates in activities. Wherever we need her, she is there. You don’t have to ask her twice.”
'Inspired by other administrators'
Clara, 23, didn’t just show up in Austin out of nowhere. Hailing from International Falls, Minnesota, she got her start as a certified nursing assistant at her local Good Samaritan Society at 16.
“I just knew I loved working as a nursing assistant and I loved working with the elderly,” Clara says.
Not knowing where that would take her, she enrolled at Winona State University and later joined the Society’s administrator-in-training program.
“I am 100-percent inspired by other administrators and what they’ve gone through,” Clara says about her two years shadowing other administrators. “Coming through the administrator-in-training program with the Good Samaritan Society, I was able to see wonderful administrators that were my mentors.”
She points to Katie Davis at Good Samaritan Society – Albert Lea and Laura Salonek at Good Samaritan Society – Howard Lake as two leaders she leans on for advice.
Clara says the Society sets itself apart from other organizations through “the care and the commitment that they put into their administrators and their buildings.”
National Ever Forward Administrator Champion
In just under a year, Clara is becoming well-known for her own care and commitment to others. It’s why she’s this year’s National Ever Forward Administrator Champion.
“I was completely in shock and in awe and so thankful that someone would think to nominate me for that,” Clara says. “I said, oh I bet this is Jenna’s doing.”
Jenna won the national director of nursing services award last year.
Using testimonials from staff, she had a hard time fitting everything onto Clara’s nomination form.
“To be quite honest, she is the best boss I’ve probably ever had,” Jenna says. “The nomination can only be 200 words and it was almost impossible to cut it down that much.”
Residents also had positive moments to mention. Rosemary Naatz says moving to the center in the last year has been a wonderful decision.
“Oh, I just love it. The help is so good. The food is so good,” Rosemary says.
She adds Clara doesn’t hesitate to check in on her and her neighbors.
“I admire Clara. She’s been real good to me,” Rosemary says. “She’s always so friendly and concerned about us that we’re all happy.”
'I'm not better than any other staff member'
Before power-washing the side of the building ahead of an afternoon petting zoo visit for residents, Clara says the location operates as a small family.
“I’m not the only person here who does pitch in in all different departments. I think it’s a culture here,” Clara says. “We help wherever is needed. I’m not a good cook. I’m not a good housekeeper but I will try my hardest.”
That effort is inspiring the community in and around Austin.
“Every resident knows who she is. She knows a lot about the residents and she knows their family members when they come in,” Jenna says. “I can’t help but tear up because she is very deserving as a new administrator. I would never guess she’s a new administrator.”
A new administrator bringing the Society’s mission to life.
“Never thinking you’re too good. I’m not better than any other staff member that works here,” Clara says.
Serving others in long-term care and loving every minute is where you’ll find Clara for years to come.
“I’ve never had a boring day. Never ever,” Clara says. “It feels amazing. It feels wonderful. Thankful.”