A Shared Responsibility

At Kendal, we recognize that educating the next generation of senior living leaders is essential to ensure the quality of the services and experiences we provide older adults today and tomorrow.

Educating the next generation is a shared responsibility, and every organization can play a role – whether through providing financial support, opening up a community as a host site for paid field experiences or joining a committee to create the framework for more opportunities.

This fall, Kendal joined forces with Kendal Charitable Funds (KCF) and Friends Services Alliance (FSA), another Quaker-rooted and values-aligned organization, to fund and design an Administrator-in-Training (AIT) position at Barclay Friends, A Kendal Affiliate.

Securing a Paid AIT Experience

An AIT opportunity is an internship-like experience with an approved certified preceptor where on-the-job training occurs in preparation for licensing as a Nursing Home Administrator (NHA) or Health Services Executive (HSE). Opportunities can range from six to twelve months, depending on state requirements. AIT experiences are very rarely paid.

Last summer, the opportunity for Barclay Friends to welcome an AIT opened. Linda Sterthous, CEO of Barclay Friends, and Laura Smith, Senior Director of Health Services at Barclay Friends, were eager to accept the opportunity but knew they wanted to find a way for it to be a paid experience.

“There was a lot of enthusiasm from the team at Barclay Friends to use community resources to welcome an AIT,” shared Linda Sterthous. “Not all AIT experiences are paid. But, at Kendal, we know that the young people accepting these AIT positions are coming out of college and need this six to nine month experience to earn their license. We also know that there is a shortage of NHAs coming into this field. We felt strongly that we needed to curate a paid experience to recruit individuals interested in this field and provide them a living wage.”

Linda and Laura joined a workgroup jointly organized by Kendal and FSA, which included The Kendal Corporation’s Diane Massey, Director of Outreach and Engagement, as well as the Executive Director of KCF, Barbara Thomas, CEO of Kendal at Oberlin, and Jane Mack, the CEO of FSA. Together, they worked on a strategy to combine KCF and FSA funding to offer this paid opportunity to an interested and qualified candidate, while collaboratively working to develop a “Model AIT Program.”

Designing the Program

Many state requirements shape what an AIT experience will look like, such as the number of hours and the types of departments in which individuals must work. When Elijah Tapp accepted the position as the AIT for Barclay Friends, Kendal and FSA were committed to going beyond the minimum state requirements when modeling this program, and making sure that it included a strong foundation based on their shared Quaker values and practices.

“There isn’t an AIT program like this one that Elijah may have experienced in another nursing center. We are putting a Quaker spin on this experience. Elijah is doing everything the state requires for an AIT experience. And he’s also visiting other Quaker-driven senior living organizations. The goal is for Elijah to learn more than how a nursing home operates. We desire for him to understand how Quaker values reflect in each of those organizations,” shared Linda.

To Kendal and FSA, it was essential to infuse these Quaker values, regardless of where Elijah will work after Barclay Friends.

Diane Massey shares, “A large part of providing this experience is exposing Elijah, and potentially future students, to Kendal’s care practices and values. When Elijah goes to another organization, we hope the philosophies and values of dignity, respect, integrity and positive aging carry forward.”

Elijah’s Experience

Elijah’s path to senior living leadership wasn’t linear. As a student at Penn State University, he started his collegiate career studying political science and latching onto healthcare spending as a topic of interest. This interest led him to switch his major to health policy and administration, where his desire to pursue a career where he could make a difference blossomed.

Elijah Tapp

Elijah found inspiration from a professor with a senior living background who walked him through the steps to become a licensed NHA. After completing his coursework and an internship during his undergraduate career, Elijah was ready to move into the next stage of becoming licensed – the AIT experience. He was surprised at his difficulty when looking for a host site.

“I looked for an AIT program for a long time, starting right after I completed my coursework,” shared Elijah. “I hit the pavement, writing letters and making phone calls to senior living organizations asking if they would be willing to host. There was a lot of energy that had to go into that search.”

Thankfully, Elijah found direction from the internship program hosted by FSA, which connected him with the opportunity at Barclay Friends. Elijah shared that finding the opportunity, which allows him to live locally and afford his student loans and other financial responsibilities, is life changing. He has also received additional benefits from the Quaker-inspired model program.

“A big part of the Quaker philosophy is that every voice matters. I’ve really been encouraged to experience things for myself, not just observe what people are doing but have the opportunity to get involved. The values of listening to every person, finding ways to gain feedback from everyone and staying aware of what’s going on have been modeled for me really well,” shares Elijah.

Committing to the Future of the Industry

“We see the importance of this because we recognize the shortage of people wanting to work in senior living. “We feel like if we can do our part to launch the next generation of leaders in senior living, we are happy to do that,” shares Linda. “People in high school don’t often say, ‘I want to work in senior living.’ It’s not a common career path, and we want to change that.”

Laura Smith’s motivation to serve as a preceptor was driven by her mentorship experience and wanting to pay that forward, “When I was pursuing my NHA license, I was given the opportunity to work with the administrator at Barclay Friends. After that experience, I knew that I really wanted to give back. So, when Kendal and FSA approached me about being Elijah’s preceptor, there wasn’t a question in my mind. I was excited to give back to Barclay Friends and the field.”

FSA’s internship program began twelve years ago with a mission to “identify and develop the next generation of leaders.” When the opportunity to fund this Model AIT program opened, the leadership team knew it was a natural fit for their mission and values. KCF was also excited about this opportunity and felt it particularly aligned with the focus on workforce initiatives.

The Need for Partners

Hosting an AIT at a community requires a financial and time commitment. To implement a similar program in 2024, Kendal and FSA are seeking members to join their workgroup, partners who want to provide funding and sites willing to host the AIT candidate.

The next host site will benefit from the investment in the Model AIT program at Barclay Friends. The community is working diligently to create a template that records how time was spent, reflections, experiences and other helpful pieces of information. The goal is to help the next community, whether a Kendal affiliate or another organization, to keep this experience moving forward.