Life inside any long-term care facility comes with unique challenges, opportunities and rewarding moments. The activities team often bring the heart, the fun and the special into everything that goes on within a facility. That is why SDAHO has picked the activities team from The Neighborhoods at Brookview, with Brookings Health System as this week’s healthcare heroes. Congratulations to Amanda Uecker, Activities Director, and Jessie Kuechenmeister, Activities Assistant, for being nominated and selected as healthcare heroes.
Brookings Health System’s mission is to provide high-quality, compassionate, personalized health care. At The Neighborhoods at Brookview, that type of care includes giving the residents meaning and purpose for life. “The activities team does that by finding ways to bring joy and laughter in the facility and increasing the quality of life for residents.” Jason Hanssen – previous administrator – Brookings Health System
Amanda and Jessie both agree that there is something special about South Dakota’s healthcare community. No matter the size of the facility you work in or the community you live in, there is a unique small town feel that they both have come to appreciate. “People come first and it’s not about the money or that kind of thing, we all care about the people. We care about the people we work with, our community and those we serve.” Amanda Uecker, Activity Director, The Neighborhoods at Brookview “We are all family. Whether it is our coworkers or the residents, we get to know them and their family. I appreciate that about the healthcare system here. Our residents are not just a number, they are a person, and we know them on a personal level.” Jessie Kuechenmeister, Activities Assistant, The Neighborhoods at Brookview
Jessie was born and raised in Brookings, and began her career in the non-profit world, not healthcare. She would often visit a friend at The Neighborhoods at Brookview. Jessie participated in activities and later eventually became a volunteer there. “I was in-between jobs and looking at changing my career and there was an opening for this position, so it just fell into my lap. It was a natural fit.” Jessie Kuechenmeister, Activities Assistant, The Neighborhoods at Brookview
Amanda grew up in Minnesota but came to South Dakota when her boyfriend at the time, now husband went to school here. She has called South Dakota home for the past 17 years and has been with Brookings Health System for 15 of those years. “I literally finished an internship at the VA in Sioux Falls on a Friday and the next Monday I started at a different nursing home and worked there for 6 months and then came over to Brookings Health System and I’ve been here ever since.”Amanda Uecker, Activity Director, The Neighborhoods at Brookview
The pandemic has been a difficult time for Amanda, Jessie, and the residents. Keeping them connected to their loved ones was challenging. Amanda and Jessie found innovative ways to connect the residents with family and friends. Seven iPads were obtained which allowed residents to talk with family via zoom. The activities team also used them so residents could hold virtual rosary services, attend virtual family weddings, and share photos of the residents with family members on a private Facebook page. Amanda and Jessie also came up with ways to keep residents engaged to ensure they were continuing to live a high-quality of life, even during a pandemic. “The Neighborhoods purchased 2 tandem electric wheelchair bicycles through a grant the activities team applied for. The bikes have been used to allow residents to safely leave the building and enjoy fresh air with over 500 miles put on them in the past year.” Jason Hanssen – previous administrator, Brookings Health System. When COVID was active in the building, the activities team started window visits with the residents, with the team wearing inflatable costumes. These visits have now become a regular occurrence inside the building.
Those who work alongside Amanda and Jessie say the residents cannot wait for the activities team. “It melts your heart when we walk into a room and the residents all start laughing and cheering for us and that is so fun.” Amanda Uecker, Activity Director The Neighborhoods at Brookview Jessie says the relationships she has built with the residents is the most rewarding part about her job. “My job here is for fun and I do whatever they need me to do. Today that meant running to Burger King to get lunch for one of our residents because she just wanted it.” Jessie Kuechenmeister, Activities Assistant, The Neighborhoods at Brookview
When asked what they think about being called a healthcare hero, both are quick to point out the many other healthcare professionals they work alongside. “It’s not just me. It is the team I work with. If I can take a half hour away so a CNA can catch her breath and create a sense of calm for the residents, that is humbling for me.” – Amanda Uecker, Activity Director, The Neighborhoods at Brookview There are a lot of people that do a lot more, they are taking on the burden daily, then we come in for the fun. I am thankful I have the skills I have to come and help, and it’s the least we could do.” Jessie Kuechenmeister, Activities Assistant, The Neighborhoods at Brookview
Jessie Kuechenmeister and Amanda Uecker thank you for all you do and congratulations on being a SDAHO healthcare hero.
Do you know a healthcare hero that should be featured? Nominate them here.