|THE ACTIVITY DIRECTOR'S OFFICE
|Silvana's Practical Insights
by Silvana Clark, Professional speaker, presenting keynotes and workshops
on humor in the workplace as well as ideas on creative activities.
Silvana Clark began her
activity/recreation career 20
years ago as a spotter for kids
on a trampoline. Every
Saturday, for four hours, she'd
watch kids bounce up and
down, up and down, up
and...you get the idea. Since
then she's written eleven
books and is a popular
speaker at conferences
around the country. She was a
keynoter at the British
Professionals conference and
recently gave a keynote for the
Her sessions are filled with
humor, practical information
and small group activities.
She is recovering from her
appearance on the Fox reality
show, Trading Spaces, where
she spent a week living with a
family that saw no need for
any kind of fun activities.
Contact her at
Liven Up Those Staff Training Sessions!
Does this sound like your typical day? A family member walks up to the front desk,
confused about their mother going to an upcoming musical event at the park. Someone
complains about the temperature of the activity room. You pick up trash from the front
entrance. All in a day’s work for you. You handle each situation with a smile and a
professional attitude. But what about your young and inexperienced staff? How do they
handle customer service issues? Administration often assumes all staff understands the
importance of conveying a professional image. The following are some ways to make staff
training interesting while helping staff convey first class service to residents and their
families at your healthcare facility.
Facility Scavenger Hunt:
Of course you know where the extra first aid supplies are stored and where to find the
Halloween decorations. However, not everyone has a handle on your facilities like you do.
During staff training, pair new staff with “old” staff for a lively game of Facility Scavenger
Hunt. Have each team locate items and locations around the property. This could include
finding items such as:
• Locate at least three first aid kits.
• How many toilets are in the far-west restrooms?
• Where would you find balloons and crepe paper?
• What color are the chairs in the activity center?
• What is the seating capacity in the dining room?
The scavenger hunt helps all staff familiarize themselves with the layout of your facility so
they can answer questions.
Several major hotel chains have the “15 Foot Rule”. Whenever a staff person is within 15
feet of a guest, the staff member needs to give an acknowledgment such as, “Good
Morning” or “Have fun at the pool”. Encourage staff to do the same thing with residents
and guests. Bring out a tape measure and show how far 15 feet is. Ask staff to mill around
and come up with different greetings to acknowledge residents.
Are You Communicating?
Communication is all-important. Your staff members might think they explained about the
monthly birthday party, yet many residents and family members forget the details. Use this
exercise to demonstrate the need to communicate clearly. Hand out pieces of paper to
everyone. (Go ahead and use scrap paper, as long as all pieces are the same size.) Ask
staff to close their eyes. Give the following directions:
• Fold the paper in half
• In the top right hand corner, tear off a “quarter-size” piece of paper. Let the little
piece of paper drop.
• Fold the paper in half again.
• Tear off a quarter size piece of paper in the bottom left corner.
• Tear off a quarter size piece of paper on the top left corner.
• Fold paper in half again.
• Tear a quarter size piece of paper from the bottom left corner.
(It doesn’t matter really which corner they tear off. Just vary the positions.)
Have staff open their eyes. Tell them, “You all started with the same piece of paper and
received the same directions. That means you should all have the same “snowflake”
pattern in your papers.” Have staff unfold their papers. Everyone will laugh at all the
different ways the papers look. Some have holes in the middle, some only on the sides,
etc. Then proceed to explain how we need to clarify directions to residents. This is a very
visual exercise and quickly shows how people mis-interpret simple directions.
Smile! You’re on Candid Camera!
Bring out the video camera and film staff role-playing situations. Set up scenarios such as
a family member complaining about the food or location of their loved one’s room. As staff
act out the situations, tape the scene. Afterwards, review the film and point out positive
points. Tactfully make suggestions on how to improve the situation. Often staff think they
are smiling and helpful, but in actually, come across as abrupt. The tape helps staff see
how improvements could be made.
The Wise Ones Have Spoken!
Here’s a light-hearted way to convey valuable information to staff. Invite 3-4 senior
members of your staff to attend a staff training session. Hang signs around each of their
necks that say “Wise One”. As Wise Ones stand in front of group, explain that the rest of
the staff has the opportunity to gain insight into customer service from these Wise Ones.
Begin by asking each Wise One a few basic questions such as, “What was the activity
professional industry like when you began working?” “What was one of the biggest
mistakes you made as an entry level staff person?” Why do you like working in assisted
living or long term care?” After each Wise One has answered questions (and provided
helpful information) ask if anyone else has questions. This provides a unique opportunity
for staff to ask questions of senior level staff. They’ll enjoy interacting with the Wise Ones
and hopefully establish a positive working relationship with each other.
Most staff training sessions involve lengthy (and often boring) lectures. Try some of these
interactive training techniques to help staff understand and implement outstanding
customer service for your healthcare facility.