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Dedicated to helping Activity Professionals
with the daily operation of their department.
by Debbie Hommel, BA, CRA, ACC, is the Executive Director of DH Special Services.
How to Prepare for Departmental Inservices

Being asked to do your first departmental in-service can be a stressful and daunting experience.  It
isn’t that we don’t know what we are talking about – it is the idea of standing in front all those people.  
In the book of lists, public speaking is listed as the #1 fear of most people (above fear of dying,
insects and falling).  Knowing that we are not alone in our fear might help you or not.   Even if we get
beyond our fear, we know in many cases the audience is forced to attend by the in-service
coordinator and that always makes for a willing and interested group.   On other occasions, when the
staff hear what the topic is “Activities”, they say “why do I have to be here, I don’t do activities”.    We
approach these in-services with dread and upset stomachs, praying they will be cancelled at the last
minute.  With proper preparation and a different attitude, in-services can be fun and an informative
way to inspire others.  
In-services are generally conducted late in the day, at the change of shift.  People who are at the end
of their shift are tired and those arriving for their shift don’t look much spunkier.   Knowing that, we
need to keep these people awake through creative and more active means.  Nothing puts people to
sleep quicker than sitting in a warm in-service room and have someone read to them from note
We can take some basic lessons from pubic speaking classes.  I remember one professor said “A
speech is like flying a plane.  You need a good take off and landing, the rest is easy sailing”.  There
is a lot of truth to that advice.  Start with a snappy opening.  Do something unexpected, start with a
game, start with a raffle, or ask a controversial question and start a debate.  Anything to make people
take notice and listen.  The same principle applies to your ending.  Leave them with a challenge,
some hope, and inspiration or at the very least a smile.  
Once you have your beginning and ending down, how do you fill 20 minutes of air time.  One of the
biggest mistakes we make in our in-services is to try and cram too much information into the defined
time period.  There is no way you can effectively communicate all the value and benefits of activities
in a 30 minute in-service.    Pick one or two points and think of various ways you can communicate
those points to the group.   Hearing the same idea in varying formats allows the individual to process
it and actually keep it for future reference.
Another helpful hint is to make the in-service experiential.  Sitting and listening to someone talk for a
half hour (especially at the end of a shift) is difficult, no matter how interesting a speaker they might
be.  A better approach is to conduct the in-service through some sort of experience or activity.  Not
necessarily a recreational activity, but a task, group work, role play, game or event which will
communicate your points.   If you want to demonstrate the value and benefit of certain activities, have
the staff participate in activities and you can point out the benefits through staff participation.  Various
games and role play activities can be created to show technique, outcomes and reasons for what we
do.  Using props or visuals always contributes to the success of the in-service.  Create a video of
your residents participating in activities and then interview them regarding the benefits they feel
through participation.  If you have a PowerPoint program on your computer, creating an in-service
using photos of activities and specific residents enjoying programs would be effective.  
Education can also occur informally.   Organizing an educational “fair” where tables are arranged
with information on various topics.  The staff visit the tables and can obtain information and
participate in independent learning tasks are effective.  Manning the tables with residents who
participate in the particular activities would provide direct testimonials regarding the benefits of
certain programs.  Using National Activity Professionals Week or National Therapeutic Recreation
Month as occasions to create informational display boards or bulletin boards to provide information
is effective as well.  
The next time you are approached to do that in-service, take a deep breath and meet the challenge
like the activity professional you are.  And if that does not work...remember what Mark Twain said
about public speaking… “There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are

Websites for Public Speaking Tips

Public Speaking Website

Advanced Public Speaking Institute

How to Conquer Public Speaking Fear

Public Speaking

Presentation Tips for Public Speaking

National Association of Activity Professionals
  • If you are a member of NAAP, you can access a section which lists sample activity outlines
    and materials.  
Let Debbie answer your
Activity Questions
About Debbie

Debbie Hommel, BA, CRA, ACC, is
the Executive Director of DH Special
Services. She is a Certified Activity
Consultant on State and National
level, with over twenty-seven years of
experience in providing direct care
and consultation to long term care,
medical day care, assisted living,
and ICF/MR facilities throughout New
Jersey, New York, Maryland, and
Pennsylvania. She is an experienced
trainer and workshop presenter,
conducting a variety of seminars
throughout the Tri-State area for the
Activity Professional, Administrator,
and allied healthcare professional.
Debbie Hommel is an active member
of Activity Professional Associations
on State and National levels. She is
ACC certified through the NCCAP.
She is a founding member of the
New Jersey Activity Professionals'
Association, serving terms as Vice
President and President. She
received the Weidner Lifetime
Achievement Award in 1994 and the
Monmouth & Ocean County Activity
Professionals Life Achievement
Award in 1999.
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December 200
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