It is 7:30 a.m. on a Tuesday when Renee Mykkanen steps outside her office door to start welcoming anxious new employees to orientation on their first day at Good Samaritan Society.
Mykkanen says it wasn’t that long ago she was walking in their shoes. Nearly 10 years ago she accepted a position as a nursing assistant on the Pine River campus. Today, after advancing through several roles in the Society, she serves as the staff development coordinator for Good Samaritan Society – Woodland.
“When I started as a nursing assistant I knew I enjoyed caring for people, but didn’t really know how or where that would take me,” says Mykkanen. “I received a tremendous amount of support and encouragement from my supervisors to continue with my education and try new opportunities within Good Samaritan Society.”
The nursing assistant class Mykkanen took through the Good Samaritan Society charted her course into nursing. She was then encouraged to apply for scholarships within the organization and offered flexible schedules to complete her schooling. Once she completed her Registered Nurse courses Mykkanen began exploring different ways to use her skills, first as rehabilitation and therapy director on the Pine River campus, then as a transitional care station director at the Bethany campus, before settling into her role as staff development coordinator at the Woodland campus.
“I feel so blessed I started my career with Good Sam. At the time I had no idea how many opportunities would unfold because of that one decision to take a class and come to work here. But, it really has changed the trajectory of my career. Most people have to hunt out opportunities for advancement, or switch organizations. I really feel valued here.”
Good Samaritan Society – Woodland Administrator Jennifer Grams says Mykkanen’s story is not uncommon. “We employ so many staff, we really are able to see people’s strengths and help them grow in that direction. Renee’s story plays out pretty regularly, especially in our local leadership teams. Many staff members start as nursing assistants and develop a passion for other aspects of the organization.”
The idea of moving within an organization is not just beneficial for staff. Grams says growing employees creates a culture of learning. “Anytime you have managers who have done the work of their employees, you create a base of understanding. And, when you promote people to positions that play to their strengths you are not only investing in the employee, but you are keeping experience and expertise within your organization.”
As Mykkanen sets out the day’s agenda for the group of new employees she tells them, “It is okay to be overwhelmed. It is okay to be excited and nervous. The job you start today will change your life — even if it doesn’t become your career. Caring for people, building relationships, and being part of a community, leaves a mark in a very positive way.”
Later, after a full day in the classroom, Mykkanen says, “Today was a good day. We helped a roomful of folks start the next phase of their lives doing some pretty important work. I like to tell people, it may have taken me a few years to get to the spot I am standing in, but I am convinced I would not have gotten here alone. It makes a world of difference to work in an organization of people who recognize your strengths and encourage you in that direction. Today, with this new group of employees, we start them on that path of development.”