Hire the Heart, Train the Mind

Like a lot of stories in this industry, being a Nursing Home Administrator was not on Mike Oxford’s radar as a career. His start in health care was actually as a care provider in a group home setting for children with developmental delays and those on the autism spectrum. Mike worked full-time on the weekends for the four years until he graduated college. “That was an amazing and challenging job that shaped me more than even my college experience!” says Mike.

After college, he didn’t know what was next. Mike knew he loved being a care provider but wanted to expand his career. He reached out to Life Care Centers of America to see if they had entry level accountant jobs to get his foot in the door of a new career. It was actually a recruiter who put Mike’s experience as a care provider with his college degree and asked if he had an interest in becoming a Nursing Home Administrator. Mike remembers, “I immediately was reminded of all the times and relationships I had with my grandparents as they lived many years in skilled homes and got excited about the prospect.”

Life Care allowed Mike to interview for an AIT role and he learned as much as he could about senior care as he went through the process. Mike didn’t even know what a DON was until his 3rd interview! He was offered the opportunity to become an AIT as long as he was willing to move where they needed him, so he was sent to a small town in rural Missouri. “My AIT experience was great because my preceptor was an old high school principal, so he challenged me to learn how the business worked from the ground up. I had to hand calculate everything and spent many days as the shower aid on the memory care unit!”

As Mike went through his AIT, he developed so much love and admiration for the residents but, even more than, he was so impressed with the heart of those who have committed their lives as CNAs and nurses. Once he finished his yearlong AIT, Mike became an Assistant NHA for a short time before the real fun started.

“My greatest lessons came early in my time. I was so afraid of making a mistake because I was ‘young’ and ‘new’ that I questioned if I was right for this industry. Then I was fortunate to work at Sava, where I had a Regional Vice President who pulled me aside and spoke encouragement into me. He told me I was bright, gifted and that he had no doubt I would grow in this industry. He encouraged me to use my natural strengths that I have had all my life and not worry about my experience because that would come over time. This flipped a switch in me in two ways. First of all I felt like I belonged in this industry and started making goals about my career which included becoming an RVP and even a President someday. Secondly, I worked hard to never let my RVP down because he believed in me.”

Mike was able to grow multiple times in his career and he always referred back to that first boss and countless others who believed in him. After spending over a decade growing with one organization, Mike felt it was time for a change. When he met the folks at North Shore and learned of our core mission and values, Mike knew this was a great fit for him and he has since embraced living in Wisconsin and supporting our great centers. “My advice is simple – anyone can learn the business and the industry, but the special leaders find fulfillment when they tap into their natural talents and incorporate them in their roles as a leader. We can hire the heart and train the mind.”