Spotlight: Jayne Brinkman, Area Manager

Close your eyes, take a slow breath in, and think of the most relaxing place you can picture. Breathe out – is there a quiet trickle of water? Maybe there’s a soft carpet of moss, and speckled sunlight dancing through the forest canopy. Is there wildlife? Maybe a baby deer, gently nibbling on a fern? Or a soft baby duckling, waddling into the pond with his brothers.

"It will be fine!" - Jayne Brinkman

Wait a minute, is that a person in there? She’s so quiet, I almost didn’t notice. She’s even been talking this whole time, low and soothing and quiet. Something about “you got this, no worries.” She looks up and smiles, and I know everything will be taken care of.

Who is this magical embodiment of peace and calm? Why, it’s Jayne Brinkman, of course! She’s a great example of kindness, flexibility, and compassion, and a pretty darn good role model to follow. I know that I usually keep the spotlight to three special things about a person. If I can only tell you three things about Jayne, it might be painful for me. I will try, but I can tell you now, this will be a wandering 3-item path. Jayne Brinkman, the HealthStar Spotlight’s on you!

Empathy, much?

It’s no surprise that Jayne can represent the needs of our Clients and staff so well – she has been working in health care for 35 years. But the best thing I have learned in the process of writing this article is this: one of Jayne’s first jobs was in a factory, making cute and cuddly stuffed animals. In my head, this is what Jayne does every night in her sleep – sews adorable fluffy things to send out into the world when she wakes up. Jayne speaks with a velvety soft voice; never sharp, and only loud when it’s for fun. If we could see a physical form of the words that Jayne speaks, they would be literally soft and sweet, like powdered sugar pillows, covered in downy fluff.

Jayne feels for her audience, understanding where others are coming from and carefully choosing when to speak and when to let silence have a moment. In conflict, she soothes hurt feelings and reminds us that we’re all in this together. She is careful and considerate in decision making, weighing the options and thinking of all the people involved. She can energize the group, and she has her own spice that she brings to everything she does, but even when she’s energetic, she shares her energy in a comfortable way!

And Jayne can train!

Jayne has been sharing her empathy skills with HealthStar for just over 20-years, and has grown right along with this awesome HealthStar family! She is a 24ECC trainer and has been instrumental in development of the 24ECC program since its beginning. But wait, there’s more! Jayne has had a hand in just about every office, helping to train HealthStar staff far and wide. She helped train me, when I started here. She travels at the drop of a hat, to rescue whichever offices need her most. Jayne has a knack for bringing things down to a manageable level and making people feel welcome. She’s pretty much the Mary Poppins of HealthStar. And no matter what she gets asked to help with, she’s always…

Calm, party of 1

From the early days of New Mexico, to many years in Duluth, plus a few years in Wisconsin, then Fairmont… and, oh yeah, can we add Inver Grove Heights? Jayne is the ultimate HealthStar wanderer. Today, back on the home front, she manages 3 offices and one satellite in Minnesota. It’s common to receive a “where in the world is Jayne” email, detailing her plans for travel between Cloquet, Waite Park, Inver Grove Heights, and we can’t forget the super northern Nett Lake. She even has a Carmen SanDiego hat! But if she’s stressed about all the travel, she doesn’t let it show. She just spreads the calm from office to office, going with the flow on her journey!

In fact, over 10-years of working together, I have yet to see Jayne lose her cool or raise her voice in anger. Sometimes, I do hear her laugh a little loud or crack a joke, though! Through all of the changes at HealthStar, Jayne has been an oasis of calm, patience, and experience. We’ve seen successes and challenges, but never a negative peep from Jayne. She just says “time to put on the big girl panties,” and away we go! She never shies away from a challenge, and she is always there to help out. That’s probably why she get asked to do…

Other duties, to the MAX

The perfect blend of flexibility, responsibility, wisdom, and generosity have come together to create the Jayne Brinkman effect. Need help with a project? Jayne will magically show up and give you a hand. Struggling with your day? Oh, there’s Jayne to help figure out what’s going wrong. Have a weird question about how things are done at HealthStar? Jayne will help you figure things out. Starting a new venture? We all know that Tim has called on Jayne many a time to help get new things off the ground.

All in all, Jayne is a “let’s get this done” kind of gal. She’s resourceful, she’s great at gathering people together, and she knows how to direct focus toward the problem at hand. Maybe it comes from farming – she grew up on a dairy farm, and had to feed the cows, pigs, and chickens before and after school. The farm work ethic is clearly ingrained, and has followed Jayne to HealthStar, lucky for us!

No matter what the project, she’s ready to dig in. She truly does it all, from processing payroll to home visits. She’s even been a registered COTA in the past, but of course HealthStar administration won her back full-time. We just wouldn’t be the same without this Jayne Brinkman effect.

But what does she like to eat?

Gladys

Jayne is a “good eater” and says she will eat anything, but her favorite is macaroni and cheese. She also has very strong feelings for Cheetos, and a great sense of humor. Ask Jayne about Gladys, and you’ll hear a heart-wrenching story, from first love to a lifetime spent together, ending with Jayne’s sadness during Gladys’ final days. Luckily, Jayne emerged from the fire of loss and has, with time, begun to heal. Oh, did I mention, Gladys is Jayne’s old office chair? Shortly after Jayne was forced to replace Gladys, there was a mysterious “abduction” of a few choice chairs at Corporate, and a large jug of cheese balls was required to be paid for ransom. But I’m sure Jayne’s love of Cheetos had nothing to do with this crime spree…

So, what do we think of Jayne?

For Jayne’s 20-year HealthStar anniversary, we made her a scrapbook. Cristina Hernandez (and her wonderful and multi-talented mother, Marisol) created the most beautiful scrapbooking collection ever known to mankind. We all took surveys, we wrote powerful poetry, and we had a great time going through the memories that we all have of Jayne’s wild HealthStar adventures.

So what do we really think? Most people think that Jayne is the embodiment of Experience and Wisdom, followed by a tie between Calm/Peace and Joyfulness/Optimism. We love her Jayne-isms, which you have already seen peppered through this post. If Jayne were an animal, some people say she would be a mama bear, some say a work horse, and some said an owl. And we all think that she likes her coffee black and often!

But of course, my favorite question was, If Jayne were a food, which food would she be? Apparently, she would be pizza, cheese puffs, chicken noodle soup, cake, hotdish, mashed potatoes, sour patch kids, spicy meatballs, buffalo wings, caramel apple jelly, and salad. How can one person be so many different foods? Well, you’ll just have to contact our Cloquet, Waite Park, IGH, or Nett Lake office and request a meet and greet to find out for yourself!

Spotlight: Julie Swedberg, Cass Lake

It’s easy to mistake HealthStar as just a Metro-Area agency, with Corporate, Twin Cities Skilled, and Inver Grove Heights all being around the metro. But we have more offices outside the metropolis than in it! Looking north, you’ll find some of HealthStar’s craftiest and thriftiest “family members” in the Cass and Bemidji offices. Julie Swedberg, Branch Manager (aka Thrift Master) brings many talents to HealthStar’s Cass Lake office. She’s dedicated to serving HealthStar’s unique Client base and spends her time spreading warm, fuzzy feelings all through the land of Cass!

Inspired by her sister’s experiences as a CNA, Julie got her CNA certification and worked in a nursing home early in her health care career, and later became an LPN. Julie says that to feel the love and trust that patients have towards her as a nurse has been priceless. Her studies continued with a 2-year business degree, and in 2015 she found herself with multiple job offers (of course!). Lucky for us, HealthStar won the dangerous duel for Julie’s heart, and she joined our team as Branch Manager.

A Running Start

Oh boy, did Julie hit the ground running! Julie started during a period of great stress and transition for HealthStar. The Cass Lake office was going through some changes, to put it mildly. Things have settled down since then, thanks to Julie’s “special touch.” She knows how to take things in stride, and she doesn’t get too riled up during difficult times. Julie says that her love of gardening helps her stay calm – she loves to take photos of her flower gardens and often spends time thinking through her current challenges and stresses while walking through the flowers.

Keeping herself grounded and stress-free sure comes in handy when our HealthStar family gets together. Julie’s calm and matter-of-fact ways help keep us all on track and on time! But don’t let her “down to business” routine fool you – Julie has a great sense of humor and loves to stir up some fun. Her laugh comes up from her toes! And if you want to see her soft side, just ask about her sons. We’ve all met the little one, Ryker – he’s a Corporate Meeting Regular! Without further ado – please allow me to share with you my three favorite things about Julie. Julie Swedberg, the HealthStar spotlight’s on you!

An “old school” master chef

Julie’s mastery in the kitchen is appreciated by many mouths and stomachs across the land. In between office hours, community events, sports with the kids, and family time, Julie somehow finds time to preserve her own jellies and jams. She does this in large enough quantity that she sells them at the community farmers’ market! I can say as a personal recipient of Julie’s “jam variety pack” that this stuff is DELICIOUS! I would eat it with a fox, in a box, on a train, in the rain, and anywhere else for that matter. Yum!

Canning isn’t her only kitchen specialty, though – Julie can bake, sauté, steam, sear, and roast, too. She’s like a human instant pot, so many functions that you just can’t get enough! She’s not afraid of a little chopping – it lets her exercise her aggressive side. Yeah, she can get tough when she needs to, but most of the time she doesn’t. She gets pretty far with honey.

Julie’s love of cooking has a family history; her mom is also an awesome cook. Sometimes, they team up for community events – I know Julie’s mom makes a killer fry-bread taco! Why, oh why couldn’t Julie have grown up in the Metro so that I can have a fry-bread taco? It’s so true that life just isn’t fair.

Oh, so thrifty!

Julie pretends to come down to Corporate for meetings, but we’re pretty sure she actually comes down for the thrift store shopping. She makes a great round of the local thrift stores when she’s in town. Sometimes, she goes with Chasidy Myhrer, Bemidji Operations Manager (aka “hammer of the north”). They are a sight to behold, with so much treasure for so little cost! Great taste, great value – if Julie had a personal motto, that might just be it. I’m so jealous of her saving ways. I’ve never seen a dollar stretched so thin.

This special thrifting ability doesn’t just apply to shopping for Julie’s family, though. She also puts her special thrifty talents to work for her office, squeezing every penny out of her dollars. She considers her office budget with every decision she makes, going so far as to do her own cooking for events – lucky for the guests!

We didn’t know it when we hired Julie, but she’s a package deal, and we are so lucky for it! She gets her family involved in planning and hosting duties, which helps keep down the cost of extra help. Aside from helping out with community events on several occasions, Julie’s mom has also become our official “Corporate Meetings Mom,” always stopping in to say hello with Ryker when they’re in town. We’ve decided to make Ryker our official Corporate Meeting Mascot. It’s always nice for our HealthStar family to see the Swedberg family!

Heart full of love!

No one asks Julie to come to community events. They just put her on the schedule and tell her she’s coming! She’s made a name for herself in the community, and she and HealthStar are so proud of this! We’ve seen (and posted) photos of her spectacular booth setup at events; she really makes it look homey and comfortable. Julie doesn’t need much of an arm twist to help in the community – she gets involved because she loves it! She makes community events a priority for herself and her family because she wants to see the Cass Lake community thrive. Her energy and enthusiasm help get others going at events, which is why she is always invited back! The warmth and kindness that Julie brings with her to work is the same warmth and kindness that she pours into every event she attends.

Julie doesn’t save all of her love for community events, though. She also likes to know all about the people she works with, so that she can show us some love, too! At the recent Corporate meetings, Julie was spotted taking notes about everything, from Corporate updates down to each person’s personality type and conflict resolution style. “You never know when this kind of thing might come in handy,” she says.

Julie’s love for her community also translates to love for her Clients and staff. Julie is friendly and caring, and she expects her team to follow her example (which they do very well!). Call the Cass Lake office, and you’ll probably talk to Michelle Colliflower or Jean Bartell, two of the nicest and funniest ladies in Cass Lake! Karen rounds out the group with plenty of experience, wisdom, and patience. Julie puts a lot of love into this team, and it shows! This great group offers PCA, HMK, and skilled services in the Cass Lake area, and they are determined to show the love of their office to all of their Clients and field staff!

Julie, all wrapped up

Julie is like a pioneer woman, mixed with a kindergarten teacher, mixed with a ferocious lion – she has amazing kitchen skills, she loves to show her kind side, but when she needs to, she bares those teeth and gets things done! She represents HealthStar just the way we like it – leading with kindness and support, delicious with a touch of spice and a whole lot of love. Visit the HealthStar booth at the next Cass Lake health fair and find out what you’ve been missing!

And Julie – thanks for the jam, I’ve finished most of it and I’ll be patiently waiting for another shipment. 😊

24ECC program: Building the HealthStar Family

HealthStar’s 24ECC program is different than other Corporate “touchy-feely” programs.

Many companies search for ways to increase cultural competency and employee engagement, but very few truly succeed. With the 24ECC program, HealthStar has nailed it.

Developing the 24ECC program

In 2009, HealthStar invited clients and community members to participate in focus groups tasked with identifying the qualities of good caregivers. These result: a long list of ideal characteristics for caregivers, providing great insight into HealthStar’s culturally diverse client base.

HealthStar then narrowed the focus group’s list to twenty-four crucial elements. The new 24 Expressions of Company Culture, or ECCs, fit nicely within the categories of HealthStar’s top four core values: Servant Leadership, Empathy, Altruism, and Integrity. Almost 10-years later, and the 24ECC program still lives on!

24ECCs in action

Each month, 24ECC trainers identify one of the 24ECC values to highlight. They design activities that help staff to discuss and dig deeper into the importance and impact of the chosen value. Through these activities and discussions, we gain a better understanding of the ideals that our Clients identified. We also examine the cultural differences in how values are expressed or perceived. The same values are often interpreted very differently depending on cultural background!

What the 24ECCs do for our team

One of the unexpected benefits of the 24ECCs is that they provide a tool to better understand and communicate with team members. The 24ECC program is a constant reminder that even though someone may do things differently, that doesn’t make it wrong! We learn balance – if you do too much of one value, you might end up not representing other values which are equally important. In conflict, the 24ECCs guide us to consider each other’s point of view without judging or jumping to conclusions. We use the 24ECCs as consistent language to express ourselves, and to discuss and work through concerns.

But for me, the best part is getting together once a month to get to know each other through a new 24ECC activity. I love the creative ideas that our 24ECC planners come up with! 24ECC Bingo, collage making, skits, and gift baskets – and sometimes a 24ECC snack. When we build a team that communicates and has fun together, we also develop something more than just a place where people go to complete tasks.

What 24ECC “Work Love” can do for you

HealthStar is more than a group of people who work together. We are a team that supports each other and truly cares about each other.  We are a work family, spread across three states. HealthStar people get excited to see each other at quarterly meetings – it’s like family coming to visit, including the cooking, the hugging, and the chatting.

Best of all, when HealthStar needs to get a project done, we all jump in and do what we can. We appreciate and capitalize on the things that make us different, because we know that’s part of building a great team! By fostering this Work Love relationship in our offices, we automatically extend the same level of care to our Clients. It’s not always easy, but with the 24ECCs, we have the foundation to build on. It is a great base to support great care!

Check out our website for more information about this program and how it helps us provide the best possible care!