Jamie Mohlin's Expansive View
Receiving the Rising Star Award from the Care Providers of Minnesota after only two years on the job hasn’t changed how Long Term Care Administration student Jamie Mohlin approaches her work at Shakopee Friendship Manor (SFM).
Now in her third year as SFM’s director of social services, Mohlin is quick to recognize her colleagues: “Receiving this award was truly humbling. I work with staff that have worked at Friendship Manor long before I was even alive, who truly deserve this recognition as well… but I haven't changed how I approach my job each day. Working with this population is truly a joy and I wouldn't change one thing.”
A Sunny Outlook
The first thing one notices when chatting with Mohlin via Zoom is the refreshing expanse of color behind her. The lattice window, half open, reveals a sleepy oak whose branches lean toward a pond reflecting impossibly blue skies and the orange and gold and green of other trees that dot the far-away landscape.
Inside, to the right of the window, one can see old wallpaper and signs of baseboard heat. There is a small air conditioner positioned high on the wall.
But as Mohlin will tell you, her office at SFM is the only room that does not have air conditioning. Nor does it have a window.
It seems that both the window—a large poster of a window with a rustic view—and the air conditioner—a copier print—were good-natured gifts from her colleagues, who not only work hard, but also like to have fun.
Our Go-to Person
It was January 2020, just prior to the onslaught of COVID-19, when Mohlin accepted the director of social services position at SFM. Privately owned, the licensed residence opened in 1965 and has 80 beds to serve those who require skilled long-term care, transitional care and rehabilitation, or hospice care. In addition to being run by the same family for the last half-century, SFM appears to be an employer people rarely leave; there are several on the staff whose tenures exceed 40 years.
“I’m not a traditional college student,” Mohlin says. But with tuition covered by her employer, she forged ahead and soon discovered that the program was designed with working professionals like her in mind.
While early in her career, Mohlin is emphatic, “Friendship Manor is a job everyone wishes they had. The small, family-like feel of the facility and people who work here make coming to work each day enjoyable.”
The feeling appears to be mutual.
Mohlin’s supervisor, SFM Administrator Bruce Salmela, notes, “When COVID hit, Jamie became our go-to person when it came to the government compliance work that needed to be done.”
At the same time, she jumped in and helped with testing and any other tasks she could do to help her colleagues. “The pandemic turned everyone's world upside down, especially for those working in the health care industry. We had to quickly learn how to be creative all while keeping our residents and staff safe,” says Mohlin.
“I call her our communication catalyst, not only because she gets important information out to our residents and their families, and our employees, but because she is continually trying to find ways to creatively engage our residents to promote their quality of life,” says Assistant Director of Nursing Lindsey Waldof. “Her eagerness is inspiring.”
“From Isolation to Engagement”
COVID also introduced the grim reality of no public visitors, and it quickly became apparent that Mohlin needed to amp up the ingenuity in order to keep residents from feeling isolated.
In the summer of 2020, after employing numerous COVID-safe activities, Mohlin worked to bring the larger world into SFM by recruiting pen pals via Facebook.
“[I] went around to some of the residents, asked what they were interested in, said, 'Hey, I was going to send this out and see if you get some mail'," she explained to Rena Sarigianopoulos of KARE-11 TV.
The response was overwhelming, with residents receiving personalized greetings and gifts that matched their interests from throughout the country. A room was designated to hold the generous trove, and staff jumped in to help the residents write letters of thanks. It wasn’t long before the SFM pen pal program started being adopted by other long-term care facilities.
Mohlin followed with an equally successful “Adopt a Resident” campaign in December. But as the number of days without visits from family and friends increased, Mohlin knew more needed to be done.
So she and her colleagues crafted a two-sided booth separated by plexiglass to allow for safe “face-to-face” visits in which the visitor sits on one side of the plexiglass, outside of the building, and the resident sits on the other side, indoors.
"It’s been a huge success,” Mohlin said in an interview with KSTP-TV. “We have people all day, almost every day, here using it, so it’s been really helpful."
Looking back on the last few years, Mohlin shares, "Some might think that the pandemic is over, but each day, we're forced to be creative and come up with ways for our residents to still be able to enjoy the things they love doing. For us, the pandemic is far from over and we will continue to navigate its ever-changing rules and regulations—likely, for years to come."
The Path to CCAPS
It was a year-long opportunity to conduct case management work with Minnesota’s Elderly Waiver through Dakota County that solidified Mohlin’s interest in long-term care.
And as she settled into her work at SFM, Salmela (who had been conducting succession planning in preparation for his phased retirement) saw in Mohlin a future administrator. He encouraged Mohlin to enroll in the College of Continuing and Professional Studies’ program in Long Term Care Administration (LTC).
“Because I was working, I got to apply what I learned right away,”
Mohlin was apprehensive at first. “I’m not a traditional college student,” she says. But with tuition covered by her employer, she forged ahead and soon discovered that the program was designed with working professionals like her in mind.
She liked that she didn’t have to drive to and from the University, and appreciated the “ease of the setup” for online courses. The biggest plus: “Because I was working, I got to apply what I learned right away,” she says.
In fact, Mohlin was able to conduct her practicum—the final component of a LTC Administrator's education—at SFM. One of her papers, "From Isolation to Engagement,” centered on her work with people in hospice care at the residence.
“I was surprised how quickly the year went. Having a full-time job, [being] a busy mom of three, and [having] extra curricular activities during the week—I was balancing a full plate. I wasn't sure what to expect, and there were definitely times of struggle, but the professors were helpful and available when needed, the communication was great, and the outline of the courses were doable with a busy schedule.”
True to form, Mohlin completed her courses and practicum in December, her state licensure exam in February, and is preparing to take her national licensure exam in April. But that’s not all: it won’t be long before Mohlin gradually assumes Salmela’s role as SFM administrator.
When asked how she plans to celebrate the culmination of these major milestones she says, “I haven't thought about this! Hopefully my family will take me to a nice restaurant and then my boss will start cleaning out his office so I can get a real window.”
Photos courtesy of Jamie Mohlin and Shakopee Friendship Manor.
Minnesota's Rising Star: Jamie Mohlin, Care Providers of Minnesota, November 2022
Shakopee nursing home asks for pen pals, and boy, did you deliver!, KARE-11 TV, July 14, 2020
Adopt-a-resident program lifts spirits for Shakopee long-term care residents during COVID-19 pandemic, KSTP-5, Eyewitness News, December 9, 2020
Long-term care residents take advantage of new guidelines that let them leave for 24 hours without quarantining, KSTP-5, Eyewitness News, April 29, 2021