Updated: Apr 5
By: Ashley Strehl - Managing Editor of Digital and Print Publications
“What started as the simple idea of having an award show for our long-term care employees, turned into something that was beyond our wildest dreams,” CEO, and Founder of Voyage Long Term Care, Brad Underwood, said.
On Friday, December 17th, Voyage Long Term Care paid host to the First Annual VIP Awards at The Science Museum of Oklahoma. At least 200 plus of their long-term care team members were in attendance at the red carpet event from the managed properties across Oak Hills Care Center, Edmond Health Care Center, and Skyview Nursing Center.
All team members of the three long-term care communities, along with family and friends of their choice, were invited to tour the Science Museum for free, enjoy food, drinks, a Science Live show, and finally, an award show, where Voyage gave away eight awards in honor of the demanding work shown by their healthcare team members in the past year.
In October, Voyage sent out an E-mail to the administrative team within all their long-term care communities prompting them to nominate their team members for a Core Value VIP Award. Administrators and department heads nominated four employees each for all five of Voyage’s Core Values, Integrity, Leadership, Ministry, Family, and Innovation. The goal was to pick employees across all departments that best exemplify each Core Value.
“Our Core Values embody who we are as an organization,” Underwood said. “We created these Core Values to follow when we’re making decisions. The winners of our Core Value VIP Awards have proven that they follow them when caring for our residents and interacting with their fellow team members. I’m so proud of our administrative team for sharing the desire to reward the people in our community.”
Among the top four Individuals nominated for the Integrity VIP Award, were Jean Casey, a CNA of Edmond Health Care Center, John Frank an LPN of Skyview Nursing Center, and Social Services Director, Chelsea Sultan, and CNA/ Restorative /Therapitst, Kentrell Rose, of Oak Hills Care Center.
The top four Leadership nominees were RN/DON, Tiffany Moody, and CMA, Ebony Jones, of Oak Hills Care Center, and Activities and Social Services Director, Amy Presley, and CNA, Marie Fletcher of Skyview Nursing Center.
The top four nominees selected for the Ministry VIP Award were Social Services Director, Latisha Williams, of Edmond Healthcare Center, Hospitality Aid, Fabiola Bloodworth, of Skyview Nursing Center, and CNAs, Jesse Wilson, and Lindsey Fuller of Oak Hills Care Center.
The top four Family VIP Award nominees included Activities Director, Bobbi Thomas, and Director of Laundry, Mary Ayers of Oak Hills Care Center, as well as Activities Director, Julie Ford, of Edmond Health Care Center, and Verna Wheat, Dietary Manager at Skyview Nursing Center. Finally, Innovation nominees included CNA, Patrick Williams of Edmond Health Care Center, Maintenance Director, Nicholas Wilson, of Skyview Nursing Center, LPN, Terry Reynolds, of Oak Hills Care Center, and Lindsey Smith, Director of Rehabilitation of Voyage Long Term Care.
Underwood said that selecting winners from the list of nominees was challenging, “It was hard to pick just one person per category,” Underwood said. “So many of our people have done amazing work this past year. I hope they know that they are all winners no matter what.” The winner of the Integrity VIP Award was Chelsea Sultan. The Leadership VIP Award went to Amy Presley, and Lindsey Fuller was awarded the Ministry VIP Award.
Julie Ford was awarded the Family VIP Award, and to her surprise, Lindsey Smith, was awarded the Innovation VIP Award. “Originally, we weren't supposed to nominate corporate team members,” Underwood said. “However, Lindsey has done so much with our in-house therapy, I really wanted to show her how much that means to us.”
Each Core Value Award was presented by a partner or friend of Voyage. The first award of the evening, the Innovation Award, was presented by Regional Sales Director for Frontier Hospice, Malane Harbour. For the second award, Remedi SeniorCare Vice President of Sales, Gara Wilse, presented the Leadership Award. Principals of Clarivol Consulting, Adiel and Laura Brasov, presented the Integrity Award. The Ministry Award was presented by Executive Pastor for Victory Life Church, Seth Swindall, and finally LPN/Lead Immunization Coordinator at Variety Care, Erin Smith, presented the Family Award.
Along with the Core Value VIP Awards, Voyage also presented the Employee of the Year Award, Home of the Year Award, and the Olivia Easson Survivorship Award. The Olivia Eason Survivorship Award, presented by previous owner of Oak Hills Care Center, Deanna Myers, was awarded to Human Resources Manager, Jolinda Ross, who was honored for battling colon cancer in 2020.
“Jolinda is an amazing person who has been an incredible leader within our organization,” Underwood said. “Even while battling cancer, she never lost sight of who she was, and she continued to be a huge asset to our organization. I wanted to establish this award to not only to honor Olivia, but to show Jolinda how much we appreciate and admire her strength.”
Assistant Director of Nursing at Skyview Nursing Center, Brandy Davis, was awarded the Employee of the Year Award, and for the final award of the evening, Oak Hills Care Center in Jones was awarded the First Annual Home of the Year VIP Award. Administrator, Seana Sutterfield, said that in all her years of working in long-term care she’s never seen a gesture as big as this one. “I was in tears,” Sutterfield said. “Since I started at Oak Hills, we’ve really come a long way. I am just so proud of everyone.”
Underwood says that he believes the key to a successful business is giving back to its employees. “Employee retention is something that is extremely important to us, and it is vital in this industry,” Underwood said. “A lot of long-term care communities have been struggling for staff, especially since the beginning of the pandemic.”
Underwood is right, according to a study done by the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living across a sample of 1,183 long-term care providers, 99 percent of those skilled nursing communities and 96 percent of assisted living communities said they are facing some degree of staffing shortages.
“Throughout the past year we have tried many different methods to increase employee retention,” Underwood said. “Every month, we give our administrators and other department heads a certain amount of ‘VIP Points’ that they can give their employees when they go above and beyond their line of duty.”
Underwood explained that VIP points can be converted into monetary value through the organizations exclusive VIP website. “So, the employees received VIP points all year, and then at the end of the year, we had the VIP Awards,” Underwood said. “I think this is the beginning of what’s going to be a really great tradition, that will hopefully inspire all of our employees to go above and beyond for our long-term care communities every day.”
CNA at Oak Hills Care Center, Fuller, said she was over-the-moon when her name was announced as the recipient of the 2021 Ministry VIP Award. “I was just so honored to be nominated, but to know just how much my administrative team and corporate team support me means the absolute world to me,” Fuller said. “I love this company, and I love Oak Hills, they’re my family.”
Underwood believes that this event will not only increase retention, but he hopes that word-of-mouth about the event will encourage new applicants as well. “I hope the VIP Awards will show our team members just how much we appreciate what they do, they are our heroes,” Underwood said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better event, I am extremely proud of my corporate team for organizing it, and it was everything I could have ever imagined and more.”