No one could have imagined in March of 2020 that Cedar Sinai Park would still need a dedicated staff person to manage personal protective equipment (PPE) more than two years after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic.
“Who would have thought?!” said Rachael White, previously the Sinai In-Home Care Director, who is now administrator for Rose Schnitzer Manor Assisted Living. Part of Cedar Sinai Park’s Safety Committee, Rachael in early 2020 suddenly found herself in a secondary role managing the evolving system of ordering and tracking PPE.”I hadn’t known a lot about the differences between the supplies, but I’ve learned a lot,” she said. “I had the bandwidth when we went remote in March of 2020. I stepped outside my comfort zone and learned where to get supplies and how to plan for the unexpected when we’ve never done this before, and all of the regulations, and how we can make the PPE work for everybody, and how much to keep on hand. Because I sure don’t want to be the one to run out of PPE for us!”
Rachael said that with the fluctuating supply chain and all of the unknowns, she typically tries to keep 180 days’ worth of supplies on campus, which for Cedar Sinai Park means about 65,000 gloves, nearly 20,00 gowns, and approximately 110,000 masks.
“I drew on my military experience with equipment and supplies, but it was all new to me,” said Rachael. “I have a system, but it’s always evolving. Staff need to know that they’ve always got what they need. It was a very interesting project.”
Rachael is the quintessential Cedar Sinai Park employee who embraces and models the role of a leader in our community.
“Rachael is the quintessential Cedar Sinai Park employee who embraces and models the role of a leader in our community,” said Chief Executive Officer Kimberly Fuson. “When we consider the past two years and all of the ever-changing information that was shared about how to keep people safe and all of the confusion and uncertainty some of those changes created and then actually stepping up and volunteering to be the person in charge of ensuring all 500 of us had what we needed on a daily basis for that period of time in a very challenging time . . . all of those factors make Rachael’s service to our organization even more extraordinary, and that’s in addition to her regular role in which she always goes above and beyond.”
Rachael grew up in upstate New York and went right into the military after high school, stationed at the United States Naval Hospital in Okinawa, Japan, where she worked in the medical/surgical ward and intensive care unit for three years, receiving a Letter of Commendation for exceptional service. She was transferred to the United States Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton in California where she worked in intensive care, pediatrics, and the medical/surgical ward for another three years and received a Letter of Commendation for management of mass casualty.
Rachael was a private caregiver in Escondido for a year providing all aspects of care to a person with a brain injury, and then worked for Fresenius Dialysis in Alabama. She bartended at the Huntsville International Airport for five years, as she worked toward as associate of science degree from Calhoun Community College, and a bachelor of science in healthcare administration from the University of Phoenix.
We think it’s our personal interactions that make Sinai In-Home Care special.
She then moved to Oregon to be closer to her mother and grandmother, and worked for Signature Home Care in health and hospice for two years, and in marketing for Home Health and Hospice, before being recruited to join Cedar Sinai Park in 2017 as its director of Sinai In-Home Care.
Rachael was approached by a recruiter in 2017 to apply to Cedar Sinai Park, and attended our grand re-opening.
“I spent some time with the staff wandering around,” said Rachael. “And I decided I wanted to work here. I had already interviewed and it solidified the feeling of camaraderie and atmosphere that were so important to me. You don’t always get that sense of belonging and as I walked around, I decided I want to work with these people.”
As Sinai In-Home Care Director, Rachael supervises a team of caregivers providing care to elders in their homes, including residents at Rose Schnitzer Manor, and the Harold Schnitzer Center for Living. Rachael recruits, onboards, and trains Cedar Sinai Park caregivers, and then carefully matches caregivers with elders to help with whatever is needed: tasks such as laundry, medications, bathing and grooming, light housework, errands, field trips, playing games, etc. One current caregiver is helping a client write a book.
“We think it’s our personal interactions that make Sinai In-Home Care special,” said Rachael. “We really think about the connections and what will make for a good fit when matching caregivers with our elders. It’s the most heartwarming part when you can make that connection and both parties are happy, which makes you feel really good. It’s a beautiful thing when it works well, because many folks want to stay in their home and be as independent as possible, and we can help with those moments that make their goal a reality.
. . . many folks want to stay in their home and be as independent as possible, and we can help with those moments that make their goal a reality.
“I want my caregivers taken care of so they can give good care,” said Rachael. “I think that’s what makes us different. We take time to get to know our staff so they feel supported and know we’re looking out for them. The majority have been with us almost two years or more now, which has been great through the pandemic and not what other in-home providers have experienced.”
Determined and persistent, Rachael has also been known to make home visits when other caregivers aren’t available, especially for emergencies and hospice, and loves attending to those in the community. “We always step out of our usual roles and get to people, just like what we would do for a parent or grandparent that suddenly needed help,” she said. “Whatever it takes, we’re going to do it.”
Racheal is so committed to her staff that she makes herself available 24/7. For example, when a client has cognitive impairment and is being challenging and one of her caregivers needs a break, Rachael has been known to go in the middle of the night to ensure her caregiver is comfortable, while maintaining the client’s dignity, care, and safety.
“It is a lot of troubleshooting and creative thinking,” she said. “I drop everything and go.”
During the pandemic, Rachael worked hard to maintain connections with caregivers who were suddenly working remotely. Rachael quickly pivoted to phone calls with her caregiving staff, working one on one with each to share assignments and get them what they needed for their client visits. She often drove to her clients’ homes to distribute equipment—like gloves and masks—and train them on the latest Covid protocols. Caregivers not only had to be carefully matched with seniors, but with Covid, they had to be assigned their seniors with no switching to ensure a consistent and safe bubble. Many seniors did not understand what the pandemic meant and so caregivers also had to be ready to educate elders on why they were wearing a mask and ensure protocols were followed.
All of the changes kept the teamwork and partnership going. We still saw each other’s faces and we were able to check in even as we were dropping items off on porches to ensure we stayed connected.
Rachael created an online caregiver training during the pandemic, and then recently switched it up again to an in-person, hands on training. “For us, again, it’s the personal connection. We want to support the relationship and team feeling right off the bat, so they have the skills and tools to be prepared, whatever happens, when they’re out caring for seniors.”
Rachael also spends a great amount of time mentoring caregivers so they can achieve their professional goals. “I always tell my staff: I want you to come on board with Sinai and stay for a year or two. But if you want to do something different, it’s my job to find ways to build you up, so you can meet your professional goals. Hopefully, they stay and develop those goals here at Cedar Sinai Park.”
Heather Hess is a great example of a caregiver who has grown professionally at Cedar Sinai Park, thanks to Rachael’s guidance. “If you want to learn and grow, Rachael supports you; she always has your back,” said Heather, who recently became one of the Portland-area’s only Positive Approach to Care-Certified Trainers, thanks to Rachael’s encouragement.
“Rachael will lay out the map and you just have to follow it,” she said. “I wanted to be more prepared for the influx of dementia clients over the next 10 years. I followed Rachael’s plan and became certified and two of our caregivers followed suit. One is working toward a nursing degree; the other toward her certified nursing assistant degree. If I have learned one thing from Rachael is that the world is your oyster and you choose how you grow your pearl. It’s very rare that you have a boss that truly cares about her team. This is why I have stayed in my current position and grew. I hope to be a great leader like her one day.”
In addition to creating an environment in which people want to work, Rachael is integral in recruiting and has been instrumental in hiring events, job fairs, and other outreach.
I try to model that we are a team and set a good example of how we care for one another. I think I am good at helping to keep tasks positive, and always make time to be a sounding board for others.
She also volunteers at Cedar Sinai Park events: Barbecues and New Year’s Eve, and Good Deeds’ Day, along with her daughter and sometimes her mother. She picks up trash, if needed, as she walks the campus, helps serve in the dining room, and learned human resources’ onboarding process to support their team. Recently, a caregiver moving a resident into a new room needed help and Rachael grabbed her staff to help so the move went more quickly and efficiently.
“Some days the office is a very busy place,” said Rachael. “I try to model that we are a team and set a good example of how we care for one another. I think I am good at helping to keep tasks positive, and always make time to be a sounding board for others.”
For more information about Sinai In-Home Care, please call (503) 595-7388.