When Peter Murphy Lewis was first approached about being a director of marketing for Experience Care, he never expected he would become a CNA (certified nursing assistant) within two years on the job.
Recently, on the LTC Heroes podcast, Lewis shared with Melissa Brown, the Chief Operating Officer at Gravity Healthcare Consulting, that it was initially his background with start-ups, entrepreneurship, and growth hacking that grabbed the attention of Jason Long, the CEO of Experience Care.
After deciding it was a good fit, Long gave Lewis a good deal of freedom, with just one condition. “He told me I’d be allowed to build my marketing team to 10 people and do whatever I wanted,” said Lewis. “But I needed to create amazing value for everyone in the industry. Not just [create value] for Experience Care, customers, not just for our competitors, but for everybody.”
To do that, though, Lewis and his team would have to think outside the box and be more than marketers. Someone was going to need real experience in long-term care to ensure that the team understands the plights and concerns of direct caregivers. And that is how Lewis found himself on his journey to becoming a CNA.
Highlighting the Contributions of Those in Long Term Care
As a marketing director at Experience Care, Lewis has not only built his marketing team but also started a podcast, LTC Heroes, on which he interviews long term care leaders and influencers about the most pressing issues. After a few months of conducting such interviews, Lewis felt the need to represent more than just leaders.
In September of 2021, Lewis began highlighting the stories of CNAs, LPNs, dietary aids, activity directors, MDS nurses, and RNs, just to mention a few. The web series, called Short Stories from the Frontline Workers in LTC, serves to celebrate these unsung heroes of long term care and encourages others to nominate a front-line worker in long term care to share their story and serve as an inspiration to others as well.
As part of this endeavor, Lewis spoke with four women in Kansas studying English Composition while also pursuing careers as CNAs. Lydia Marsee, just 16 years old, shared what she learned about the CNA interview process. Rachel Ann White, a successful CNA at Country Club Estates in Paola, offered her advice for improving retention in long-term care. Karen Good, a CNA with three decades of experience, told Lewis what it takes to be a successful CNA. And Shelbie Miller, who is a third-generation CNA, articulated what it means to be a CNA.
After a few months of conducting such interviews with front-line workers, Lewis began to get the sense that he may be ready for the next step in representing long term care. He first found inspiration in Bob Speelman, the vice president of business development and culture at Foundations Health Solutions. During a taping of LTC Heroes, Speelman told Lewis that he decided to receive training as an STNA to better understand the perspectives of his employees and act accordingly. That resonated with the podcast host.
And Lewis received an abundance of support from his supervisor. “I can remember being in a management call with Long,” Lewis said. The CEO expressed his concern for the future of the industry and his grievance that the voices of those who provide care were still not being heard. “He said to me, ‘Peter, what if you became a certified nurse’s aide?’” Long knew that Lewis had a platform for amplifying those voices. Now he wanted him to add his own perspective to those of interviewees in order to better sympathize and identify with them and elevate the nature of the conversation.
Upon hearing Long’s proposal, Lewis jumped at the opportunity. After all, one of the reasons he joined the Experience Care team was due to the company’s willingness to listen to nurses and long term care staff in its process of finding software solutions. And the EHR vendor has even hired former leaders in the industry in order to ensure that they have a consistent presence of voices that speak to the needs of their customers. “What makes me really proud of working at Experience Care is that, the majority of people on our support team have clinical experience,” he said. “So, there are people who were nurses in the army in the military, and they know how to use our software.”
It was for this reason that the next logical step did, indeed, appeared to be a first-hand experience for the marketing team. “I realized that becoming a CNA lined up with what I think our differentiators are: customer care and customization,” said Lewis. “To better understand our customers, I needed to be one of them. In order to provide amazing customer care and explain that care, in our training and our online training, I need to be a better listener and be able to use the same software that they were using.”
The CNA Life
Since becoming a CNA, Lewis has been far more aware of customer needs and has aligned marketing campaigns with their interests in mind. But, for Lewis, the CNA life is, and always was, about more than speaking to a target audience. Rather, it was about building human connections in an industry that has served seniors for so very long. “When I started taking care of a number of residents who had dementia or Alzheimer’s, I really felt that I was caring for my grandpa,” said Lewis. “I finally felt like I was given the opportunity to pay back that generation for all the things they gave to me.”
Further, Lewis and the Experience Care team want to do as much as they can to help the industry overcome the most challenging period in its history. By stepping into the shoes of CNAs, he hopes that he can help leaders identify innovative solutions to efficiency and staffing.