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Pilgrim Place offers ESL classes to health care center employees

On a journey to transform the way care is provided in its skilled nursing setting—based on resident-centered values and practices—Pilgrim Place has discovered that enhancing the communication skills of the limited-English- speaking staff is making a difference.

“The job description of the housekeeping staff has become that of homemaker,” said Sue Fairley, vice president of health services at Pilgrim Place. “Their jobs have been expanded as part of care teams to include more daily interaction with the residents, including feeding them and tending to other needs. It is not uncommon for this staff to be made up largely of limited-English-speaking workers. Better communication skills make it easier for both the employees and the residents.”

Four members of the homemaking staff attend ESL (English as a second language) classes 3 times a week for an hour a day at Pilgrim Place. Pat Hynds, a Pilgrim Place resident and retired Maryknoll missioner, volunteered to teach the classes.

In addition to her missionary work, Ms. Hynds taught ESL at the junior high, high school and community college level. She is assisted by several other volunteers and residents of Pilgrim Place. The students come 30 minutes early for the class, on their own time, and the second half-hour of the class is treated as part of their work day.

“It is amazing how quickly these classes have allowed them to overcome their timidity,” Ms. Hynds said.

There was a lot of excitement when a recent staff meeting was held entirely in English without the need of a translator, according to Pilgrim Place staff.

“Being able to communicate reduces anxiety as we transition into this new mode of care,” Ms. Hynds said. “They really feel as if they are part of the team. One of the students even took it upon herself to enroll in adult school. That’s progress.”

Pilgrim Place, founded in 1915, is a senior community for 350 retired clergy, missionaries and social activists. In the last 3 years Pilgrim Place has transformed the 56-bed health services center, which is also available to the wider community, from a traditional medical model to a more patient-centered one. 

Chief among the benefits of this new model, according to Pilgrim Place, is the restored dignity to the oldest members of our society, who must rely on someone else for many of life’s essentials.

 

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