Crafting birthday cards with residents during activity time is a treat these days for Alena Goergen, RN, BSN, at Good Samaritan Society – Miller Pointe in Mandan, North Dakota.
“I love to participate when I can because that’s part of why you get into this job is just being able to be with people,” Alena says.
Alena got her start in nursing 25 years ago as a certified nursing assistant with Sanford Health. A love for long-term care brought her back to a nursing home following a short stint in acute care.
“I do OK in trauma. I tried helicopter nursing for a while. I loved that," Alena says. "That was great, but I missed that connection that you can have with the people here."
“I don’t know anything else and I can’t imagine doing anything else, honestly."
'She leads by example'
Exploring her passion for geriatrics, Alena has earned her CDONA (Certified Director of Nursing Administration) in long-term care and is board certified in gerontology.
“I am so blessed to have Alena as my director of nursing,” Society administrator Kayley Cartmill says.
When Kayley was interviewing for the long-term care center’s administrator role, she remembers meeting the nursing leader for the first time.
“(Alena's) like, 'We’re team players here. When there’s a mission I like to stay until the end to make sure everybody gets their work done and try to help in any way possible.' At that point I knew, I want to work with this facility,” Kayley says.
Residents and their families want to be around Alena, too.
“I’ll see Alena and I see her in scrubs which means she’s actively pursuing her profession," Jolene Kline, whose dad lives at the Society, says. "She’s not sitting behind a desk. She’s out there working with her team members making sure the residents’ needs are being met."
“That says that she loves her profession and that she values her team and that she leads by example."
NADONA award winner
That leadership is bringing Alena recognition as the NADONA Nurse Administrator of the Year for the Northwest Region, a highly competitive and prestigious award.
“It’s humbling. It’s not why you do a job like this. I was very moved. I don’t do this job for the commendations. It means a lot to me just to know that the hard work is recognized, I guess. I was very honored,” Alena says.
Alena was nominated for the award by a handful of co-workers.
A new nurse at Miller Pointe, Sarah Schillo, RN, is learning a lot.
“Everybody loves Alena. She’s kind. She’s passionate. I feel like I can go to her with anything and she’s not going to judge me. She also helps me be a better person,” Sarah says.
“I love it here. Over a year now and there’s not one day that I have not wanted to come to work."
Word of the culture on campus travels outside the nursing home and helps with recruiting employees.
“They hear good things in the community, and they want to work here because Alena Goergen works here,” Kayley says. “Alena has very good clinical judgement and clinical knowledge. I know a lot of senior leaders look to her for advice on changes with processes and policies."
'There's no job like this'
Perfecting processes and prioritizing people, it’s a winning combo.
“We’re touching lives. It’s moving how many people are better because you showed up for work today," Alena says. "The days aren’t always easy. You don’t always go home and think, wow, I had a really awesome day and work was so great. Then, there are days you go home and that person’s life is forever going to be better because I got up and put on my scrubs.
"There’s no job like this."
Being a part of a caregiving team coming through for residents every day.