Gaining and Keeping
Interdepartmental Support
Brenda J Scott, ADC
NAAP  Education Outreach Trustee

An Activity Professional can have a very hectic schedule, but you must take time to
cultivate cooperation and on-going support from other departments.  One of the biggest
struggles is gaining and keeping help and cooperation from other departments.  It
starts with the new employee orientation.  Do you take part in the orientation?  How
much time do you have? I recommend 15 minutes.  If you are not meeting the new
employees at orientation, ask to be included. Be enthusiastic, positive and welcoming.  
Tell them about the activity program and encourage them to get to know the residents
they work with.  One technique I use is to have each person draw the things they enjoy
doing in their free time.  No words just pictures.  Give some examples, if you enjoy
reading, draw a book, musical notes for interest in music and flowers for gardening.  
Give them 2 minutes and instruct them that stick figures are OK.  After the time is up,
look at their pictures and talk about their interest.  Don’t be afraid to try this as most
pictures you will recognize.  Keep it light and have fun with it.  (The worst I’ve done is call
a horse a cat!) After about 3-4 minutes, ask the group if they see any similarities, how
many liked music, church interest, sports, etc. Point these out and then talk about how
you would develop an activity program for the group.  Then I talk about the categories
that we use in programming; spiritual/religious, creative/expressive (they have just done
a creative project!), intellectual, educational, physical, etc.  

Then talk about outings and bringing the community into the facility. Next give examples
of staff assisting with or providing programming, sharing a collection, a slide show of
their travels, musical ability, and participation by scouts, school clubs and choirs, etc.  
Give each person a form to fill out.  It should ask name, department, hobbies,
collections, talents, groups, clubs, children and their ages. Ask them to fill it out and
give it back to you in a few days.  When you get the form, thank them and encourage
them to share with the residents.  And yes, this can be done in 15 minutes.

Of course the department supervisor must be willing to let the employee take an hour or
two to facilitate a program.  Some of the activities and programming that staff of other
departments has facilitated for residents are:  sharing collections such as Holstein
cows, business cards, dolls, antiques, etc., musical programming, concerts and
recitals, scrap booking, dance demonstrations and much more.  The residents love to
see and hear about the staff. We have a young man in the dietary department who plays
the piano during dinner before busing the tables.   

When other staff help by transporting, have a resident ready for an outing, or facilitating
a program, anything they do that helps, the Activity Professional should be gracious and
thank them by name.  Recognition is an important component to gaining continued
support.  It motivates staff and inspires personal achievement.  You can tell your
colleagues, coworkers and staff how much you value them and their contribution any
day of the year.  In fact, small surprises and tokens of your appreciation spread
throughout the year help staff feel valued all year long.  And, don't forget to say "please"
often as well. Social niceties do belong at work. A more home like, welcoming, friendly
atmosphere is what culture change is all about.  Everyone appreciates being thanked
and appreciated.

Look for days you can invite all facility staff to participate.  It is a proven fact that staff who
feel appreciated are happy.  Happy staff generally provides the best service, take pride
in teamwork and represent their department in a positive way.  Making it fun and getting
everyone involved is easy.  Some of the simpler things you can do include the following
•        Jeans, casual or dress down days are always popular with staff.  Make it a fund
raiser by adding a “charge for comfort” and money goes into a fund to help employees
with emergencies. (I suggest not doing this each week as it loses its importance and is
no longer “special”.)  
•        Encourage staff to dress appropriately for holidays such as red on Valentine’s
Day, green for St. Patrick’s Day, red, white and blue for the 4th of July, orange or black
for Halloween, etc.  
•        Pass out something fun for everyone on special days, beads for Mardi Gras, Leis
when doing a Luau,  bandannas  on western day, be creative!  
•        On National Donut Day bring in donuts for all staff. This can be done with any
“food” day.  We recently celebrated National Pizza Day with pizza for everyone.  The
dietary department provided salad, drinks, and dessert.
•        For “Back to School” fun, have staff bring in grade school pictures of themselves.  
Post on a bulletin board and have staff, residents and family members guess who they
are. A small prize can be given to the person who gets the most right, maybe an issue
of “People” magazine.  

One more place where you can use help from other departments is on outings. Some
facilities policy and procedures mandate a nursing person go on each outing, others
don’t. Outings over 3 hours should have a nursing staff along.  Is there a nursing
person who loves to fish that can go on an all day outing to the local fishing hole? Going
to the zoo? Ask all staff who would enjoy going along and partner with a couple of

It all starts with that first meeting and hopefully it is at new employee orientation. Use
the information you gained from the “Getting to Know You” form. Get to know them as
individuals and learn to capitalize on their interest, hobbies and strengths.  The most
important thing is to call them by name and thank them for their assistant no matter
how simple.  You can cultivate great interdepartmental support. Be creative and most of
all - have fun!
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About NAAP
Founded by Activity Professionals
for Activity Professionals...

NAAP is the only national group that
represents activity professionals in geriatric
settings exclusively. NAAP serves as a
catalyst for both professional and personal
growth and has come to be recognized by
government officials as the voice of the
activity profession on national issues
concerning long-term care facilities,
retirement living, assisted living, adult day
services, and senior citizen centers. NAAP
is nationwide in scope with a growing
membership in Canada and Bermuda.

The National Association of Activity
Professionals recognizes the following

The quality of life of the
client/resident/participant/patient served is
the primary reason for our services.

The strength of NAAP lies in the diversity of
its members.  NAAP recognizes the rich
cultural, and educational backgrounds of its
members and values the variety of
resources represented.

The strength of NAAP also lies in the
development and promotion of scientific
research which further defines and supports
the activity profession.

NAAP values the development and
maintenance of coalitions with
organizations whose mission is similar to
that of NAAP's for the purposes of
advocacy, research, education, and
promotion of activity services and activity

NAAP values members who become
involved at the state and national level to
promote professional standards as well as
encourage employers to recognize them as

NAAP affords Activity Professionals across
the country the opportunity to speak with a
common voice...

NAAP successfully worked with members of
Congress to secure a change in the nursing
home reform title of the 1987 Omnibus
Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA).
Through our efforts, it became mandatory
that an activity program, directed by a
qualified professional, be provided in every
nursing home that receives Medicare
and/or Medicaid funds.

NAAP was the only professional activity
association to participate in HCFA's
workgroups that revised OBRA's interpretive
guidelines now in effect.

NAAP provides assistance at the state level
to promote certification of activity
professionals, working toward uniform
professional standards for activity practice.
NAAP Mission
To provide excellence
in support services to
activity professionals
through education,
advocacy, technical
assistance, promotion of
standards, fostering of
research, and peer and
industry relations.
There are so many benefits when you
belong to NAAP!  Each member will
receive a newsletter which will give the
updated reports on Government Relations,
Special Interests, International Updates,
Professional Development, Nominations,
Standards of Practice, Financial Updates
and a Membership Report. Along with this
comes an update from our President, Susan
Rauch and Executive Director Irene Taylor.

Members will also receive a discounted rate
at the Annual Conference which is held in
March/April of each year.

Effective JAN 1, 2006 membership dues are:
  • Active Membership = $59 USD
  • Associate Membership = $65 USD
  • International Membership (outside
    US) = $65 USD
  • Student Membership = $49 USD
  • Supportive Membership = $99 USD

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PLEASE NOTE: The articles set forth in this
publication are for informational purposes
only. Nothing contained herein shall be
construed as legal advice. The statements
made herein are those of the respective
authors and are not necessarily an
expression of the views of NAAP.