by Mike Lee, Staff Writer
Thirty year ago, Crystal Cornwell, RN, was finishing up her studies at Moore High School.
Thirty years later, she’s across the street as the new director of resident services at Featherstone Assisted Living, formerly Heartland Plaza.
“It really truly has been a homecoming for me,” Cornwell said. “I just don’t want to go anywhere else. I’m committed to this community – the community inside and the community outside because Moore is home for me.”
Heartland Plaza didn’t exist when Cornwell went to Moore High. It was an empty field with backstops where teams practiced baseball.
Heartland opened in the late 1990s.
Cornwell came to Featherstone as the full-time registered on May 1, hired by Joyce Clark, who had been hired to redesign and revitalize the facility.
“I was actually just looking forward to working as a nurse again because I had been working as a DON for a long-term and skilled (facility) for about five years prior,” she said. “I was looking forward to being a hands-on nurse.”
Featherstone’s corporate director took notice of the level of daily interaction Cornwell had with her residents and her co-workers.
She was offered the job on the spot.
You see, Cornwell has a unique perspective. She says residents will more freely engage with her on matters ranging from what activities are scheduled at the residence to what they do and don’t like for dinner.
“I’m really enjoying the fact that now I get to make a difference in those areas, too,” she said. “The biggest thing I’ve done since coming on is holding employees accountable. I’m definitely making the culture where it’s driven by the residents. I’m trying to take all those years of complaints I’ve heard and do something about that.”
Cornwell can see a difference. Residents know when Cornwell listens. And that makes all the difference. That’s why they’re so eager to add their two cents when she gives tours to prospective families.
“I have the residents chasing them down saying ‘You want to put your parents, here. This is the best place,’” Cornwell said. “I might as well give them a name tag and let them do tours.”
With Moore High School across the street Cornwell welcomes any interaction. Cornwell organized a Valentine’s Dinner for residents and called the high school’s art department to ask for special placemats.
Thirty placemats were sent over for the big dinner.
“Most residents pulled them out and took them home with them instead of putting their plates on them,” she said.
Cornwell’s job does range the gamut. On this day she’s already met with a family, a marketer and a home health referral company. She’s worked with corporate on payroll issues, met with a maintenance man to discuss a plumbing issue and she has a pot of green beans on the stove for dinner.
Featherstone Retirement properties offer beautifully appointed studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments in a senior housing environment. Most apartments are furnished with kitchenettes and all with private bathrooms. Many of the senior apartments are individually climate-controlled and include all utilities.
“Being able to be apart of all of it,” she says, about what she’s likes best about her new role. “I’m really enjoying the fact that I get to be a part of both sides. I get to make sure healthwise and carewise they’re getting optimal care. Care goes so far beyond just taking care of their needs. Seeing them smile and seeing them happy, I like being part of that.
“I love being close with them and being part of their family.”
Cornwell still does daily nursing. She manages most health issues on-site and handles contacts with the physicians.
“I think the physicians have responded very well because of my nature and what I’m used to, especially with the seriousness of the skilled units I’m real proactive in identifying problems before they become serious. My communication to the physicians shows that.”
And her staff has truly made a commitment to make Featherstone an ideal place to live in Moore.
“I don’t think it would be possible if I didn’t have the staff that I have that believe in me and my ideas,” she said. “The staff has been very, very open to it because from the nursing side they’ve heard the same complaints all along. They’ve been the same people that have gone to administrative persons and asked to change. So they’re real excited to have someone that is trying to change those features.”