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HR leader: On gratitude, modern-day home care, and building a welcoming workplace

Human resources VP Cara Hart spends her days working to attract the best and brightest talent to HopeHealth and building an environment where they can thrive. In this wide-ranging interview, Cara shares thoughts on the power of gratitude, being one’s true self at work, and pandemic safety on the job.

The culture of HopeHealth

HopeHealth: What is special about working at HopeHealth?

Cara: Health care is a great industry to be in, period. But HopeHealth’s specialties—home care, palliative care, hospice care—are really rewarding fields to work in. And we do these three things extremely well.

Everyone here is very committed to the work they do, from our clinicians to the people in finance or philanthropy or marketing or human resources (HR). Regardless of our job, we all know the reason we’re here is to support patients and their families.

I worked at several hospitals before coming to HopeHealth seven years ago. The things that stand out to me here are the enormous satisfaction staff get out of their work, and the amount of gratitude expressed by patients and families in our care. It’s unlike anything I have ever experienced.

Talk more about that gratitude.

Think about families that are going through hospice care. They’re dealing with this incredibly painful period—a loved one’s end of life—and yet they take the time to express their thanks to our staff for making that difficult time a little bit better. It’s just amazing. I still get overwhelmed by those expressions of gratitude, no matter how often they happen.

Our home care patients send us letters, too, but it’s in a different light. In home care it’s about helping them recover and regain their independence. We help those patients return to the things they love to do, like a walk through their garden or playing the saxophone.

How has home care changed over the years? Is it different today?

Absolutely. In the past, I don’t think individuals entering nursing school targeted home care as a specialty to work in. But that has shifted because the health care industry has changed.

From a cost and quality perspective, now we need to figure out as a country how to provide care in a setting that best supports your recovery and is cost-effective. More and more, that place is your home, and home is where most patients would rather be.

Back in the day, you spent a week in the hospital if you had your knee replaced. Today, our home care nurses and therapists have advanced skills and expertise to support your recovery at home. We can provide that high level of care, and that’s a beautiful thing.

We listen and learn and we share our knowledge. Investing that time is part of becoming a better organization.

How does HopeHealth promote an inclusive workplace and help employees feel they belong?

We want to be an environment where people feel like they can be their true selves. We want to attract and retain people from diverse backgrounds and think about diversity in the broadest possible context.

Creating a workplace culture based on everyone feeling respected and valued is the foundation of this work. People should feel as though they belong and that HopeHealth is a safe space for them to be themselves. You have to feel comfortable being your personal best in order to be your professional best.

What does supporting staff members in their day-to-day look like?

I think it is about all of us intentionally listening and learning and being open. We work in a fast-paced environment, so you have to be really intentional and take the time to say, “I’m going to spend five minutes with Cara and get to know her a little bit more.”

We listen and learn and we share our knowledge. Investing that time is part of becoming a better organization.

Staying safe in a pandemic

team photo of clinicians wearing personal protective equipment
A team of HopeHealth Hulitar Hospice Center’s hospice aides celebrate their teamwork throughout the pandemic.

It’s been a challenging year for frontline health care workers. How has HopeHealth protected the health of staff?

When the pandemic started we implemented safety protocols very early on. Our staff members had the personal protective equipment (PPE) they needed, even when there was a shortage, and we educated them on how to use it.

We followed and continue to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state public health agencies. And we’ve continued to adopt best practices as we learn more about the virus.

We wear masks. We practice social distancing. We wash our hands frequently. We self-monitor for symptoms.

We also promote a culture of responsibility and accountability. We clean shared spaces like conference tables when we’re done. We don’t come to work if we don’t feel well. And staff are encouraged to seek testing when symptomatic.

As a result, only a small number of employees have tested positive for Covid this year, and we all remain diligent about safety.

How do you support employees’ overall wellbeing?

Work-life balance and overall wellbeing are high priorities for us because in order to be a good caregiver, you have to care for yourself.

In the height of Covid we knew that staff members were concerned about their health and safety, the health and safety of their families, and their financial safety.

We offered employee support groups, and our employee assistance program is always available at no cost to employees and everyone in their household. Having these resources available has been very valuable.

Staff’s needs are personal and varied, and we will continue to support them during these unprecedented times.

How do you view your role in HR?

I help people feel good about the work that they are doing!

When I stop and think about the responsibilities of our clinicians and what they see and experience all day—the last thing they need is someone from HR reminding them about missing paperwork. That’s not why I’m here.

My opinion of HR is that our job is to get out of the way and make other people’s lives easier. I spend the majority of my day listening, coaching and counseling people about their goals and opportunities.

If someone is having difficulty with a coworker or superior or subordinate or team, I help them identify options for a resolution. They have the answers, but sometimes it can be helpful to have someone to share your thinking with. I strive to find the solution that are in the best interest of the organization and every individual in it.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

I love having the ability to help influence a culture that is welcoming and supportive of people, both personally and professionally. The interactions I enjoy the most are the one’s that are out of the spotlight and are about doing the right thing at the right time to make a positive impact on a person’s day.

Want to join HopeHealth? Visit our Career page. HopeHealth is currently offering a $10K sign-on and retention bonus for home care nurses. Learn more here.

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