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  • Emily Trask

McKnight's LTCN: Moving nursing home staff in as residents has life-changing potential

Staff who take up residence in a nursing home for even just a few days are better equipped to transform care delivery and how the actual residents experience it, two experts who have tried the technique said Tuesday.

Leslie Pedtke spent more than two decades as administrator of an Illinois nursing home, where she first asked staff to undertake an experiment in empathy in the early 2010s. Her team members were invited to move in for days-long stretches, adopt a diagnosis commonly seen in the facility and then go through all of the care processes and challenges real residents faced.

Being fed pureed food, going a day without having their teeth brushed and having to remain in a wheelchair until a lift could be arranged so changed her workers’ response to residents that she soon made a pre-orientation overnight stay a condition of employment. Having lost privileges and freedoms during their imagined illness, caregivers became more attuned with residents’ daily needs and delivered them with more compassion, Pedtke explained.

“If every nursing home would commit to doing an experience like this, of having their staff move in and live like residents, it would be life-changing,” Pedtke said during a webinar hosted by the Gray Panthers NYC. “That would change so much of everything that they do. I really do wish that more people would do it.”


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