On this week’s episode, we speak to Mark Parkinson, President and CEO at American Health Care Association.

We caught up with Mark at the Nebraska Healthcare Convention where we discussed various topics relating to his career in the long-term care industry. These include:

  • Mark’s experience growing up in Wichita, studying law at the University of Kansas and how he ended up working in the long-term care industry.
  • Mark’s key memories working in long-term care facilities. 
  • Working as a leader and developing a temporary aid program for people to get quick training to help during the pandemic.
  • The parts of Mark’s job that he most enjoys.
  • Post-pandemic regulatory issues and what they mean.
  • Advice for people considering working in the long-term care industry.

Learn more about Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of the American Health Care Association by tuning into the latest episode of LTC Heroes.

Rapidfire Q/A

What’s the part of your job that you most enjoy?

I leave the house at about six thirty and get into the office at about seven. And I have about two hours where the rest of the East Coast is still not working. 

And it’s in those two hours that I’m able to get caught up, get a lot of things done, and reflect on other things. And I know this will sound very weird, but I like driving to work and driving back. 

I like the road time to myself thinking things through, maybe listening to some music, maybe listening to sports, talking, whatever. But I enjoy that time.

Why should someone consider working in long-term care?

Well, the nice thing is, when you work in our buildings, even though it’s hard, you know that 100% of what you do daily is helping people. 

When Stacy and I were practicing law, we would come home sometimes at night wondering, what are we doing with our lives? Sometimes we were on the right side of a case but sometimes we weren’t. 

When we worked in our buildings, even on the hard days, maybe especially on the hard days, we came home and we knew that every minute of every hour of every day was spent trying to improve people’s lives. And there’s very few occupations where you can spend all your time just trying to help people.

There’s a 25-year-old CNA single mom. She’s burnt out. Why should she stay in long-term care?

That’s a tough one. Because CNAs work incredibly hard, often without a lot of pay. 

If they are good, I think what I would encourage them to do is advance their training. It’s a great calling to be a CNA for your whole career. 

But if you’re getting burned out, maybe that’s an indication that you need to consider becoming an LPN. Or perhaps you need to consider some tracks where you can become an RN. And I know many providers out there who provide scholarship assistance for CNAs who want to do that. 

But the other reality is that this work isn’t for everybody. If you’re burnt out because you can’t handle caring for people, maybe it’s time to get out of the profession.

For the average US citizen who’s not interested in long-term care, what can we say to them to let them know that this industry is important and that we’re suffering and need support?

The facts speak for themselves. So we can get people to look at the facts, which is that many people need our services and we’re underpaid for those services. 

We don’t have enough workers right now. And we need a whole generation of people to step up, and both help us on the financial side and also work in our buildings.

If you could own a giant billboard outside of DC that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, would see in any given month, what would you put on that billboard and why?

It would definitely be something about long-term care. If somebody could artistically figure out how to convey that the real heroes in our society aren’t sports figures or people that can sing, it’s the CNA that’s willing to work the 11 to 7 am shift. And that’s for $15 an hour under challenging circumstances. 

So if we could somehow have that person up on the billboard as the real hero, it would be something like that.

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