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The senior living industry has a voice. You can hear it on Bridge the Gap podcast!

CW 80: David Hopkins

The exciting conclusion of intrigue, mystery and deceit. Join David Hopkins for the final decision of our senior living leader and what is next.

Welcome to Bridge the Gap contributor Wednesday, I’m David Hopkins. It’s December folks, and kind of a bittersweet time for me. As most of you know, who have been listening to my podcast, last month we kind of got raw and we kind of got real. Well, this is a little continuation of my story at this point in time and my journey as a healthcare leader in senior living. 

 

So I titled this part two, because last month I let you know that I was one of the many that has been affected by the vaccine mandate. So today I received the letter, it stated my separation. I thought about the title, my separation. It’s not my choice, but I have been let go from my position because of a vaccine mandate. Flashing through my mind when I listened to this statement and read that email was the past two years of absolute craziness. The leadership role I took was not how I had to lead. During this pandemic I was a counselor for residents where I would sit and cry and try to stave off depression, mental illness, and bring joy to their lives. While we were delivering food to rooms and not allowing too many activities, but more interpersonal activities where they would be in their room, watching a TV or being led on an iPad, not being able to see their family breaking down, crying, saying how much more do I have to handle? How much more David? They would ask me with tears in their eyes. I tried to comfort them. I would try to get their iPad working so that they could see their family and friends.

 

I was also a safe place for employees to come and vent their frustration and uncertainty of the time where we didn’t know what was going on. The constant barrage of emotions, feelings, extreme highs, and extreme lows was unparalleled like anything I’ve ever experienced before in senior living, and in my leadership career for the past 20 years. I was the point of contact for families that were scared and frightened of their families, not being able to see them again. The constant, when will we lift restrictions question, or how much longer do you think this will last? The long days and the long nights with very little time off, being away from my family when they needed me during this pandemic. The desperate search for more staff, supplies, gloves, masks. Man, KN95’s became a popular item, didn’t they? And the amount of time I spent sending reports, just a little bit different but all with the same information, to the department of health, to the department of state, to my corporate office, to my regional, all asking the same questions, the counts and what was going on. Every day, it was inundated with zoom calls and Teams calls of the absolute up to date, most recent data that we could possibly use to plan.

 

There was a personal toll that it took not only on me, but other friends who are leaders in senior living, physically and mentally. I think about how we all in senior living sacrifice and work so hard. How is it possible to dedicate so much time and energy into something that you love and you care for and you nurture, only to be discarded like a paper plate at a picnic. A lot of you might’ve heard me say the words you are unclean. You don’t have a choice. You’re disposable. And now we’re in this situation that we call The Great Resignation, and people seem surprised by this. I don’t know how we could be surprised after pouring and dedicating ourselves for two years of self sacrifice only to have some of us discarded and some of us to continue to carry on with more expectations, because now we have to regroup and regain our census. I understand that we are the leaders, and we have seen these employees take care of themselves first. And we are slowly seeing that creep into the upper levels of management.

Our families have sacrificed greatly. And now on LinkedIn, I see lots of people posting: Well, I took the leap. I’m going out on my own. I’m starting my own business. Leaving jobs and careers, with nothing to go to. They just need time. They need time to breathe. They need time to walk in sunshine, sleep in late, they need rest. And you know what I realized? I need a rest. So I took my unpaid leave, because I was unclean and I had 30 days to decide. During my unpaid leave, I was allowed to use my vacation. So 196 hours of accumulated vacation time I put in for. On my last active day, knowing that I was going to be placed on unpaid administrative leave, I said goodbye to a few of those special residents, made a last check, put an “out of office” alert on my email, closed my office door and walked down the hallway alone. I turned in my badge and my name tag. And as I exited the side door, I paused for a moment to hear it close and latch. 

 

And that is when the self doubt started creeping in. Maybe I’m just not good enough. Maybe I’m not worthy. Am I even a good leader? All these confusing thoughts started flooding my head and the self-doubt came raining down. So I went home, worked in the yard for a couple of weeks and thought I was really done with senior living. I thought about trying something different. I thought about, do I take a lesser job? Do I take a step backwards to transition? Do I look for something completely different and go out on my own? And as I was working in the yard, the most impactful thing happened to me. I was trimming a tree. There were dead branches that I clipped off, and some of the intertwining branches needed to be trimmed so this tree could grow strong and healthy. So I decided which branches to cut.

 

I decided. Just think about that powerful statement. I decided. I decide if I’m worthy. I decide if I’m clean. I decide if I’m a great leader, and I decide I am good enough. I am a senior living leader who has much to give and teach, and it is my decision, nobody else’s, of whether or not I leave senior living. It’s not my employer’s. It’s not my government’s. It’s mine and only mine. So I want to tell you something folks, I’m back. With a renewed passion and a renewed energy to help dedicate to senior living. I want to be a voice of those who can’t make, or are too scared to speak up. You get to decide for yourself. You have permission. We are back, baby, to quote Dick Vitale from basketball. Watch out. When you make that conscious decision to take back the decision making process, there’s nothing more powerful, and there’s nothing that can stand in your way. 

 

So I have to tell you, I’ve proceeded on to a new community, and I’m excited about the challenges that lie ahead in senior living. I will continue to be a voice for choice and freedom. And on this very fitting December podcast, which is also my last with Bridge the Gap as my year has come to a completion, I do want to take just a quick moment and thank a few people. Josh and Lucas for starting Bridge the Gap podcast, have been amazing gentlemen. If you ever get the chance to meet them, do it. The bearded wonder twins in my head are what they are. The creative, powerful, passionate men who are great leaders, with morals and ethics, will stand with you in any fight. Sara Mitchell, for those of you who don’t know, Sara Mitchell is an unsung hero who makes all of us on Bridge the Gap sound amazing, and look so well put together, you would never know. Her mastery of marketing and digital technology is so far beyond anything I could ever comprehend. We are so grateful for her. 

I’d also like to thank my family. My wife, Alison, my son, Nick, and my daughter, Kate, who have spurred different topics for me to talk about through this. And I’d also like to thank my two dogs, Tango and Chewy, because for them, I am their chief dog walker, which allowed me to flush out many ideas as I was out in the night, walking the dogs and think about my topics and how I was going to craft that message. To my fellow contributors, Jerald, Cara, and Christy, I thank you so much for the teamwork and the friendship that you have given to me. The ability to meet all three of you and become fast friends and powerful allies, even when we disagree, there’s still love and compassion in a fierceness that we fight for. They are truly brothers and sisters in senior living.

 

And last but not least, I want to thank you for listening. When I started this journey, I wasn’t sure anybody was going to listen to anything I had to say. I’ve made some great friends throughout this time. I hope I’ve given you some laughs, some challenging ideas, and something to think about. It has truly been my honor to share these stories. And I just want to part with one final message. You are all worthy. You are all valuable and you have a special place in this world, and I pray over all of you that you have a wonderful holiday. We have come through the fire and we have been challenged like no other time in our history. But 2022, look out, cause we’re coming for you. Thanks for listening to this week’s BTG Contributor Wednesday. Please connect with me at btgvoice.com and on LinkedIn.

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CW 80: David Hopkins