Spotlight: HealthStar IT

Have you heard enough about cybersecurity this month? Well, maybe just a little more won’t hurt you… but I’ll go easy on the techo mumbo jumbo – this is a more personal piece. For October’s Spotlight, I thought I’d do something a little different. Since we’re talking cybersecurity all month, why not look at the two HealthStar employees who do the nitty gritty computer work? You know, the gals you call when something breaks. The ones you email, even though you already know you’re supposed to send a ticket to support@hhhealth.net. Yeah, I’m talking about Susan Mocchi and Beth Taylor, HealthStar’s in-house IT team. (we’re also the blog writer and designer, so prepare yourself for a lot of tooting our own horns) Susan and Beth – the HealthStar Spotlight’s on… us?

Introvert vs Socially Awkward Extrovert – how to tell the difference

Susan and I are like two sides of the same coin. The coin is basically hidden and doesn’t really want to be spent, although it has immense value. The coin wants to stay inside and not talk to anyone some days, even though the coin loves everyone around it. I’m not sure if this analogy is working at all, and at this point, I’m too afraid to ask.

Oh, yeah, and the coin speaks really fluent meme.

So, which side of the coin is introvert, and which side is just socially awkward extrovert? Let’s see if you can spot the differences:

  • Introvert will email you instead of calling you, every single time;
  • Awkward Extrovert will call you and have a goofy and twisty-turny conversation while fixing your computer.
  • Introvert enjoys spending time alone after work;
  • Awkward Extrovert can’t wait to call everyone she knows on her way home.
  • Introvert would like to conclude this meeting;
  • Awkward Extrovert doesn’t realize this isn’t a meeting at all, it was just a couple people passing in the hall, and we can all move on now.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’ll let you keep guessing.

Carnivore vs Vegetarian (bet you know how to tell these apart)

This one’s easier to spot. One of us loves eating bacon and all other smoked meats, as well as steak, chicken, and various other formerly living animals, including fish. The other one will not, under any circumstances, eat any of those things. Not even if it’s just broth. But there was that one time, when she accidentally ate fish sauce.

So, you’d think this would make for a pretty difficult food-sharing relationship, right? Surprisingly, there are a lot of things that both Susan and I enjoy eating together. For example, macaroni and cheese. There could be bacon involved, but it doesn’t have to be. I mean, there should be, but we can compromise.

We sure do like cooking.

Also, we both enjoy veggie burgers, hard boiled eggs, refried beans, and dessert hummus. Yes, dessert hummus is totally a thing, and yes, it is delicious. No matter what Angel Sims, Skilled Program Manager, tells you – it is not normally gritty. THAT WAS JUST ONE TIME. Most of the time, it is wonderfully smooth and tastes like brownie batter or cookie dough, Angel.

Oh, and we also both love baked or fried Tofu. And cream cheese wontons. And veggie spring rolls. Except don’t forget to tell Susan that THERE’S FISH SAUCE IN THAT DIPPING SAUCE.

Small arms vs regular sized arms

So, neither of us is super tall, but Susan is probably the shortest person allowed to drive. I mean, she’s basically a child’s Large. But this isn’t the third thing, it’s just a bonus.

We both love to help people

The best thing about working with Susan is that she loves to help out. And I assume that the best thing about working with me is my witty sense of humor, and the fact that I set the wardrobe bar kinda low, so usually you’ll look pretty good in whatever you’re wearing, because I’m wearing something not as nice. Oh, and also, I love to help out as well.

Susan makes the shelf a little heavier for Tim. Beth handles the power tools, and Angel Sims supervises. (The peace sign means that we are doing a great job.)

We both enjoy being challenged with a new task, and we especially like it when that new task is a special project assigned by Barb Jezorski. Those are The. Best. Tasks. Ever. (Usually, they involve things like writing a funny poem, or making a silly game.) We feel best when we are useful and working on a project that will help make things easier or better for someone else.

This is why, when I have a problem, Susan will always help me. And this is also why, when Susan has a problem, after picking on her for being small, I will always help her. We make a really good team, because we are both willing to pause our own work for a minute to do something different. This doesn’t just extend to each other – we also love to help other departments, and of course, we kick butt on the IT helpdesk. Just ask a question and see how happy we are to help out!

But who are we?

Susan is a master at Photoshop, forms design, and marketing stuff. She is caring, kind, supportive, and funny. If you need someone to talk to, Susan will never send you away, even if she’s busy and you’re an extrovert who doesn’t know when the conversation has ended. She will always make time to help her co-workers, and she will drag you to lunch on those days when you think you’re too busy to leave your desk. Yes, I speak from experience.

Part of the reason that I still work here is because Susan is my backup, my team-mate, and sometimes my only pillar of strength. She reminds me that there are only so many hours in a day, and that some of those hours should be spent standing up, away from my assigned work space. On my most stressful days, Susan is often the only one who truly understands my struggle, and she is always there to help me through. She knows how to read my facial expressions, especially when I’ve made a terrible mistake (never happens).

“A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.”

Bernard Meltzer

Most of all, even though Susan is a super-duper introvert, she tolerates me and my awkward, extroverted ways, and she never calls me out on being “too much people” for her. She is a true partner at work, letting me help her out with the fun stuff when I can, and asking me what she can do when I’m overwhelmed. Susan supported me when I asked to blog write for HS, which is something that I have come to really enjoy, and she has trusted me and backed me up on all of my wild and hare-brained IT schemes. For all of these reasons and more, I thank you, Susan, because without you, I would be totally, utterly, and hopelessly lost in a sea of endless tasks. I couldn’t do this job without you!

As for me – I’m a master at some random things, but because I am myself, I see only my flaws, and I have never been good at tooting my own horn. Some people say that I’m a good writer. I like corn on the cob, and I think that Mexican Street Corn and the stuff from the State Fair are both the BEST EVER. Some days, I share my lunch with Jane Bauer, payroll extraordinaire, and other days, Jane shares her lunch with me. I don’t take very many things too seriously. I am not a fast runner, I know a few things about computers, and I really like the Thai Chili Lime Cashews from Trader Joe’s.

That is all.

Oh, yeah, and we both love TopDog

So, in the interest of full disclosure, Susan and I don’t do everything IT-related on our own. We have a lot of backup from TopDog PC, and we are so grateful for that backup! See the post from earlier this month if you want to know more about that. We’re glad that we have backup for the super technical stuff, and for the stuff that we just can’t get to in a timely manner. Three cheers for TopDog – hip, hip, Hooray! Hip, hip, Hooray! Hip, hip, yeah ok, you know what’s coming next.

Spotlight: Chasidy Myhrer, Operations Manager

There are so many things to say about Chasidy, I’m having a hard time deciding on just a few. Kindness, responsibility, flexibility, compassion, respect… and that’s just the tip of the 24ECC iceberg, folks. Chasidy is helpful, but not pushy. She’s kind, but not a pushover. She knows all about checking items off of lists, and she’s no stranger to saving money! She’s something special, and HealthStar is very lucky to have her! Chasidy, let’s celebrate your 10-year HealthStar anniversary together by sharing 3 of your special abilities – the HealthStar Spotlight’s on you!

Tenacity, with a side of Courage

I’ve mentioned before that we have a lot of variety in backgrounds at HealthStar. We cover a lot of “used to’s,” from finance to flight attendants. Chasidy is no exception. In fact, she studied photography on a scholarship as a college student, so how the heck did we get so lucky to have her on staff as one of HealthStar’s northern Operations Managers? Try to keep up while I tell you!

After Chasidy decided not to pursue a full-time career in photography, she took a job at a title company, learned all about real estate, and worked on a Medical Coding Certificate on the side. (I assume that she crafted one thousand doilies per month and knitted scarves for homeless lemurs in her spare time; she’s kind of an overachiever.) After she got engaged, Chasidy moved to Bemidji and gold-starred her way into a position at a credit union and then an opioid treatment facility. The treatment facility kept Chasidy busy for a few years, but then Chasidy thought “what could I add to my not busy enough schedule?” and decided to add an AAS in Human Resources to her growing list of credentials. In a stroke of good fortune, HealthStar snapped Chasidy up while she was studying HR, and she has been “locked in” here ever since.

But wait, there’s more!

Chasidy started at HealthStar as an Administrative Assistant II in our Bagley office in 2009. I remember when Chasidy started, because we had some… let’s call them “unique challenges” in the Cass Lake office at that time, and Chasidy helped out over there quite a bit as well. (Cass Lake is amazing these days, we all love Branch Manager Michelle Colliflower!) It didn’t take long for Chasidy to make a good impression as an Admin, and from there, she started climbing the ranks. In 2010, she was snapped up as Assistant Branch Manager in Bagley, and in 2014, she relocated with the Bagley team to our current Bemidji location.

A funny thing about Chasidy – she’s amazing at work, but she also has the fabulous ability to set boundaries and maintain her home life. So when I say she was promoted to Branch Manager, at least the way I’ve heard it, it was more like HealthStar said “You should do this,” and Chasidy said, “I don’t know if I’m ready,” and then HealthStar said “Yeah, we KNOW you can do this, we’ll be here with you, and we really, really want you to… (insert puppy dog eyes and lots of pretty, pretty, pleases) so… you’ll do it, right???”

Of course, Chasidy knocked it out of the park as Branch Manager, and then HealthStar “pretty, pretty pleased” again, and Chasidy stepped up to the plate as Operations Manager for our northern offices in Bemidji and Cass Lake. So here’s the message – Chasidy, we’re following you straight to the top of the food chain here at HealthStar! We are so proud of all that you’ve accomplished while you’ve worked with us, and we thank you for all that you give to the company, day in and day out!!!

All in the Family!

Chasidy is fabulous at “putting on the shoes” of HealthStar’s Clients, partly because she grew up with a family member who received home care services. Her older sister, Kimberly, was born with Hydrocephalus and Cerebral Palsy. Kimberly continues to beat the odds of Cerebral Palsy to this day. Chasidy says, “Home Care was instilled in me long before I knew what it was.” Growing up watching home care and other various services come in and out of the family home must have been quite the experience. HealthStar is lucky to gain from Chasidy’s experiences. Because she got to see the benefits of home care first-hand, Chasidy is a great resource for what we can do to best serve HealthStar and First Nations’ clients all across northern Minnesota.

Chasidy may be a few hours from her home town of Fairhaven, MN (near St. Cloud), but she still enjoys visiting her parents and extended family often, especially during the town’s annual Old Settlers event. She’s a family gal, what can we say – it’s why we love having her in our HealthStar family! Working with Chasidy is like working with an old friend – she’s easy to talk to, she laughs easily, and she has a special way of making you feel like you’re just as important to her as her own family members. She adopts each of our Clients into her own “Chasidy Family,” and she speaks up for their needs as she would for her own relatives.

Poise – what is it?

Something that’s hard to describe, but that Chasidy has in spades, is poise.

poise [poiz]
noun

  1. a stably balanced state: EQUILIBRIUM
  2. a: easy self-possessed assurance of manner : gracious tact in coping or handling
    b: a particular way of carrying oneself : BEARING, CARRIAGE

Chasidy’s calm and patient demeanor surround her like a soothing lavender sachet. She doesn’t jump to conclusions. Her thoughts seem always collected. I ask my HealthStar co-workers – have any of you heard Chasidy speak harshly? Seen her make any rash decisions? It is very rare. When Chasidy is confronted with conflict, she takes a step back, re-focuses, and then steps in with her thoughts cool and controlled. She must get riled sometimes, but I certainly haven’t seen it.

Bonus ECC?

Poise is not technically a 24ECC. But I think it can be found in several of the characteristic ECCs, like Respect, Calm, Diplomacy, and Gentleness. Chasidy displays seemingly effortless poise – it looks like it is a very natural thing for her. She is cautious, thoughtful, and gentle with her words. In a fiery debate, Chasidy is a warm cup of tea, bringing everyone back to the table and soothing throats raw from shouting. She calmly states objectives and doesn’t assign blame.

Yeah, she really is this good.

HealthStar is very lucky to have Chasidy on our side. She represents us with a levelheadedness that is not easy to find, and she gets along with pretty much everyone. Want to see this for yourself? Stop on by the Bemidji or Cass Lake office, and you can check out the show of poise in action! I promise you won’t be disappointed. You might even make a new friend – Chasidy says she is often befriended by strangers while out running errands, and she gets told lots of stories and information by people she has just met. She has a kind smile and a caring attitude, so I’m not surprised to hear she’s developing a fan club of followers!

But what are her hobbies?

Research is a big part of preparing to write a blog post. When the post is about a person, I have a questionnaire that I send out. One of the questions is about hobbies or abilities. To be clear, when I ask about hobbies, ORGANIZING is not something that I would expect to see listed there. I suppose it is an ability… but, Chasidy, you literally said that you enjoy it. I am wondering about your mental health as I write this portion of the post, because ORGANIZING is not something that I would file under “things to enjoy.” But I digress.

To be fair, Chasidy also says that she enjoys fishing, camping, photography, and traveling. And, of course, she loves her kiddos (daughter, 5, and son, 8), and her whole family loves sports (GO BEAVERS!). Did I mention, she also has 7 chickens, 1 dog, and 2 goldfish? But personally, I just can’t quite get past that ORGANIZING part.

This section also does not count as a shared thing, because I usually only do 3 things. This is a bonus.

OK and also, I forgot all about how thrifty she is – she is the best thrift store and consignment shopper since Julie Swedberg. We miss you, Julie!

Put it all together!

Do you struggle to prioritize multiple tasks? Are you experiencing conflict, and you want to talk about it with a stranger? Maybe you just want to share a good laugh with an old friend. Stop by the Bemidji or Cass Lake office and ask for Chasidy – she’s the master of all this and more. She can explain HealthStar’s philosophy while also organizing your clutter and patiently listening to your life story. And maybe after, you guys can do some shopping together!

Spotlight: Katie Wagner, Finance Operations Manager

We all know that person. She’s the one you ask when you want to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – nothing buttered up; no flowers or rainbows. Just tell it like it is. It’s a rare talent, and Katie Wagner, Finance Operations Manager, has it in spades.

She’s not afraid to give her honest opinion, loudly and with feeling. But she’s also got a soft side, and she lets that side come out while she’s around her two kiddos at home. Don’t expect too much of the soft side to show up at work – Billing and Finance don’t allow a lot of touchy-feely stuff. But if you get her talking about Client care, you’ll know that soft part is still all melty and gooey in there, driving Katie to find the best possible coverage for each Client. Get ready for some extra special “insider info,” because Katie Wagner, the HealthStar Spotlight’s on you!

Big sister, Little sister

Katie has younger siblings as well as older siblings, which makes her the perfect combination of “little sister, big sister.” She grew up with 7 people in the house – both parents, plus four siblings. Talk about sharing! As the “big sister,” Katie knows how to take charge, but she also knows how to take a “little sister beating” in the form of being picked on by the other office “family.” Not that we would ever pick on employees, right Tim Lively?

Katie also has plenty of health care experience, which helps her to put herself in your shoes, whether you’re a caregiver, Client, or family member. She started out in PCA service and Assisted Living, and then worked her way up through the ranks to Office Manager at another home care agency before coming to HealthStar in 2013.

For me, home is where you can be yourself… there are no judgments, you can make up your own rules, you can have things the way you want them, and it’s not dictated by someone else… That’s the best part about home care; it gives people the option to be themselves, comfortably.

Katie Wagner

Katie can be the strong source of advice, and she can also sometimes be the one who needs a little TLC. For example, when we’re not sure of a Client’s coverage, Katie is always the first person in line to help figure things out. But when we have big hairy scary issues with a certain software which we won’t mention by name, Katie might need a little help peeling herself off the ceiling. No matter whether she’s in little sister or big sister mode, Katie is a fun part of the HealthStar family!

Competition, much?

If you really want Katie to shine, just tell her that it can’t be done, or that she’ll never find the answer. It’s not always obvious, but Katie is a fierce competitor. Katie wants her work to be the best – a great example of a job well done. She’s not just here to work, she’s here to shine, and she expects the same from her team.

Tell Katie that no one can get through to that insurance payor, and she’ll have a rep on the line before you can turn around. Tell her that we can’t figure something out, and she’ll call together a committee to get you an answer lickety-split. Give her an hour to get the job done, and she’ll have it back to you, finished, in 15-minutes. Apparently, she even has a long-running badmitton game with her brother, who lives in Arizona. They just start up again with the previous score every time they’re together. (and, yes, Katie is winning.) The only thing that Katie doesn’t compete on is food – she’s kind of a plain-Jane. But if there was a competition on who could eat the most Cheese Pizza, Katie would… at least show up.

Tenacity? YEAH, she has it!

The best part of the deal is that HealthStar’s Clients get the benefit of Katie’s drive to be great. She fights tooth and nail to get every allowed service covered. She is an insurance knight, fighting for those who don’t have so many years of billing experience to fight for themselves. Boy, does it feel good to have an advocate like this on your side when you are looking for service coverage! And for HealthStar, to have someone who knows the ins and outs is amazing, especially when researching and launching a new service line like we just did with ICLS!

As someone who has also “fought the good fight” in insurance billing, I can say from experience, it is very difficult to navigate benefits coverage if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. And with more than 16-years of home care experience, Katie knows what she’s looking for! There are some things that you can only learn from dealing with insurance coverage day in and day out. It’s amazing that Katie’s skill set and years of experience are available to our HealthStar Client base!

Laughter is the best… everything!

My personal favorite thing about Katie is her sense of humor. I had to choose this, because she is such a plain eater. I’m a very food-motivated person, so it is hard for me to write about someone who doesn’t really love the same variety of foods that I do. But that’s a me problem, and this is supposed to be about Katie… so, sense of humor it is!

Katie loves to laugh, and I love it when she laughs loud. She has a great “throw your head back” laugh. And she loves sarcasm, which is fabulous because many of us at Corporate are extremely sarcastic. But the absolute best thing about Katie is that Tim Lively can pick on her in just about any situation. She makes it so easy to tease her, it’s almost as easy as picking on Susan Mocchi for being small (and let me tell you, from experience, that is very easy to do. Like, any time someone brings a child’s hand-me-down clothes around, you say “Hey, that would fit Susan.” Or when you need someone to help put on your fine jewelry, it’s like, “Susan, can you do this with your tiny hands?” So, yeah, pretty easy.)

Wait, a fun meeting?

My favorite meetings are the ones where Katie, Tim, Susan and I are all involved. It’s really more of a roast than a meeting; Tim and I just take turns tossing one-liners around, and Katie and Susan look at each other like, “when can we file a complaint?” But they also both know how much we love them, so everybody comes out feeling great in the end. Or, at least, we haven’t gotten the complaint paperwork yet.

How can someone who has such a serious Billing and Finance job also have such a great sense of humor? I think it might be genetic. Katie has an awesome picture of her dad on her desk, and he has the BIGGEST smile I’ve ever seen. I’m pretty sure that his attitude and legacy have a lot to do with Katie’s own big smile. So, if you’re ever in North St. Paul, stop in and ask for a meeting with Katie, Tim, Beth and Susan. Bring some popcorn and put your feet up for a while – you won’t be disappointed.

If Katie helps everyone, then who helps Katie?

OK, so this spotlight also has an extra bonus item. Katie is a great biller in her own right, but she has a really awesome team. I couldn’t do this spotlight without mentioning the rest of the Billing/Finance staff. Greg Klinger and Leela Vang are the quiet strength to Katie’s thunder. They are both amazingly hard workers who want to get things done right. I sometimes realize that I’ve gone all day without talking to Leela or Greg, and I feel a little guilty and sad… But it’s not because I don’t love them – it’s because they are so focused on their tasks, and they very rarely need outside help to complete their responsibilities. After all, as much as it might feel like family, we are all here for work. Good thing you were sitting down for that, right?

Besides Billing staff, though, Katie also supervises payroll SuperWoman Jane Bauer, aka Sneezy MacSneezerson. Yes, that’s right, between Jane’s high number of rapid-fire “is she sniffing out of the pepper jar in there” sneezes, and Greg’s booming, large-breed dog-barking impersonation sneezes, the rest of us are mice among men in the sneeze department. So, not only does Katie have the most Corporate Office staff in her department, she also has the most Corporate Office sneezes reporting to her, by a large margin.

Work hard, play hard (then work hard some more)

The best thing is, Leela, Jane, and Greg also each have their own great sense of humor. So basically, the whole Billing/Finance/Payroll team is a barrel of sneezes and laughs. (ok, it’s not as gross as it sounds.) But at the end of the day, the most important thing about Billing is perseverance, and you know by now that Katie has this in spades. She doesn’t give up, which is a win for HealthStar and our Clients.

Got questions about insurance coverage for yourself or a loved one? Give us a call and see what Katie and our Billing/Finance team can do for you. Just don’t forget your sense of humor; you’re going to need it.

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: Magan Olson, Clinical Supervisor

Here I am, hoping to write a great blog post about Magan, one of HealthStar’s Mental Health department superstar Clinical Supervisors. She has this great HealthStar history that goes back to the beginning of the Mental Health program (spoiler alert – she was one of our first interns!). But I keep catching myself looking out the window and thinking about, well, lots of other stuff. It’s not that I don’t like what I’m doing, I just sometimes can’t get myself to buckle down and do one task at a time. My brain wants me to think about grocery shipping, what my kids are doing while I work, and a whole list of “other duties as assigned” when I’m trying to complete a task. Please tell me I’m not alone in this?

While writing the post that was published earlier this month, I talked with Magan about health and wellness ideas (she is a great resource for mental health wellness!). My conversation with Magan reintroduced me to mindfulness, which is basically paying more attention to where you are in the moment, instead of splitting your attention with all those other distractions. For me, this is a true exercise – it is very difficult at times. Some days, I swear my brain tries to purposely stop me from checking off my list. I’m still able to accomplish a lot, but just think of what I could do if this wasn’t happening!

Wait, what was that again?

Truth is, this distraction is normal to some degree. While it’s hard to overcome, we can learn to make peace with our distracted nature. Magan says that a focus on mindfulness has made a big difference for her – just taking those few minutes to breathe and be present has helped her to stay grounded. Magan also says that exercise has helped her with her personal health and wellness journey. A little extra energy and a boost in serotonin can go a long way to improving your mood and state of mind, especially in this long and snowy MN winter!

Here’s the thing – if I can learn these things from Magan by asking a few general questions, just imagine how amazing it could be if we knew all her secrets! Oh, OK, maybe not all of them, but at least a few? Well, I am lucky enough to tell you three amazing things about Magan right now! Magan, the HealthStar spotlight’s on you!

Responsibility, much?

Magan is one of those people who you just know will get back to you. Maybe it’ll take a day or two, but you never question that the response will be coming your way. She knows how to prioritize, and she absolutely understands responsibility and attentiveness. I assume that this comes at some cost to her, personally, because there are times when all of us are overwhelmed… but I don’t see her letting things go. To Magan, it is clearly important to meet the needs of others and to follow through on her commitments.

Her focus on responsibility makes Magan an amazing resource for her team. She has been a go-to on many projects, going back to her days as an intern! I won’t bore you with the details, but there are plenty of good reasons why Magan was hired as our first Mental Health Practitioner. We just couldn’t let her escape after her internship here! Tim Plant, former Executive Director at HealthStar, may not be here today, but his good hiring judgment still hangs around wherever Magan gets assigned. I’m sure Sherry Fridlund, current Director of Mental Health Services, would agree that this was one of Tim’s greatest decisions.

The eyes!

It happens so quickly – you might think you’re just shooting the breeze, and then, all the sudden, you get the look. If you’ve talked to Magan, you know what I’m talking about. It’s all in the eyes. It’s the look that says “I’m here for you, I’m listening to you, there is nothing else that matters right now, and I will help you fix all of your problems.” If you’ve never experienced this before, let me tell you, it’s quite the feeling. She listens like no one else I have ever known. No judgment, no unwanted advice, no interruptions. Just listening. It’s a kind of being heard that you might not realize you need until it happens. The kind that just validates you as a person and says “it will all work out OK.”

Honestly, this is the look that I want to see when I just have that “I want my mommy” feeling. Yes, I still get that even though I’m a mom, myself. I just want someone to calmly validate that my feelings are my own, and to tell me, in a soothing voice, that things will work out. I’ve never been Magan’s clinical patient, but I think this is exactly how it would feel.

Magan says that she feels honored to have someone tell her their story and to support them through whatever it is they’re going through. She considers it a privilege to connect with people and help them to find their strengths, whether they’re HealthStar team members or Clients in the field. I feel Magan’s honest commitment to as her co-worker, and I know the staff at the St. Paul office all feel it, too! If Magan is also serving warm milk to the Mental Health staff and Clients, I wouldn’t be surprised.

An object in motion

The rules of motion tell us that an object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. In Magan’s case, she can be both the moving object and the outside force, depending on the situation. If you need help getting motivated, Magan can apply a little force. But when Magan herself gets moving, she’s a force all her own. Magan says that she loves running, walking, hiking, and just generally being outdoors. It’s not hard to guess that she’s an active person – she looks great, and always has pep in her step!

Keeping physically active is just one of the ways that Magan stays healthy. I also mentioned earlier that she has a personal focus on mindfulness. Magan says that for her, this means concentrating on just being present in the moment throughout the day. She expressed the need for mindfulness really well:

“It’s easy to feel like you’re missing your own life… Take a few deep breaths and remind yourself to be present.”

Magan Olson

I know that feeling! Going home after a busy day, I just don’t want to engage. The problem is, the evening is the only time I have with my family. If I disengage, I’m missing out on that little bit of time which is the most important part of my day. Learning a little more about mindfulness from Magan has helped me to find that if I spend a “mindful moment” on the car ride home, I can re-center and be more present by the time I get back to my loved ones.

Each of us has different obstacles to wellness, but the goal is the same – continue moving towards our personal goals. This is why Magan is just the ticket – she can help you identify your unique obstacles and show you just the right force to apply to get those obstacles moving out of your way!

Magan, all wrapped up

There you have it – Magan Olson, in three parts. Responsible, attentive, engaged – she’s a triple threat! She’s a go-to when you’re in need, on so many levels! If you know someone who could use a little wellness help, check in with us and find out for yourself what Magan and the St. Paul staff have to offer!

Spotlight: Jessica Downs, Clinical Operations

HealthStar’s Corporate team is a very diverse mix of all walks of life. Today, we are nurses (like Jessica), medical billers, and office support staff. But many winding paths have converged to bring this team together. With history in auto maintenance, real estate, finance, marketing, teaching, and even some folks who moved to the continental US from abroad, we really keep things interesting!

We are all problem solvers in one way or another, but the thing that really brings us together is our love of caring for others. We may not be direct, hands-on care staff, but we show our helping hands in other ways. There are lots of treats and shared meals, plenty of “feelings Friday” discussions where we show our support for each other, and lots of inside jokes. There are no cliques – we all get along. No, seriously! It’s not always easy, but because we truly care about each other, we give each other grace and try to understand where others are in their own unique battles.

As awesome as Corporate is, if you really want to see what makes HealthStar shine, what sets us apart, and what we are all working for every day – you’ll need to look outside our colorful and multi-angled Corporate walls. Look out into “the field,” where the rubber meets the road. Can you see our clinicians, our practitioners, and our front-line caregiving staff? Maybe you also see our service office locations and some of our Clients – they’re the reason Corporate exists! We work to serve, and we work hard to make sure that we serve well!

Who else do you see?

While you’re looking out there, do you see a blonde? Not just any blonde, but a blonde who really OWNS IT? Maybe you see her climbing out of a big pickup truck with her hair flowing in the wind. Her broad, radiant, feel-good smile touches everyone she walks past. That blonde hair is a statement, and the shoes and smile are the exclamation point. Her red shoes reflect her true passion – love for all people, and a strong desire to take care of those who need it. Watch out, now – she’s a hugger, but her hug melts your worries away and leaves you feeling lighter. Just who is this happy, high-heeled hugger, you ask? I’m proud to say, this bright and bubbly blonde is Jessica “Jess” Downs, HealthStar’s Director of Clinical Operations.

Talk about winding roads to HealthStar Corporate – prior to her decision to become an RN, Jessica had worked as a CNA in HealthStar’s Duluth office. Jess even once considered becoming an attorney! We’re sure glad she didn’t go that route. Instead, while working as a CNA in a nursing home, Jess was encouraged by a mentor to pursue a career in nursing and decided to give it a try.

What a great fit for her caring personality! After getting her degree, Jessica’s career in nursing kicked off in her home town of Duluth, MN, working in a surgical center and hospital. She later worked in Wisconsin, Nevada, California, and Arizona, in a variety of clinical roles including corrections nurse, hospice case manager, and Director of Nursing. Then, in 2014, Jessica’s winding road led her full-circle right back to HealthStar. Some things are just meant to be! Because we are in the “month of love,” we thought it would be a great time to tell you a little more about Jessica and her big-hearted ways. Jessica Downs, the HealthStar spotlight is on you!

Happiness is contagious

One of the first things that I noticed about Jessica is that she always seems So Happy. It’s an overwhelming happiness, like I imagine it would be if everyone’s Facebook self was real. She projects positivity and happiness into the world in front of her, like a blinding pink tractor beam, daring sadness to cross its path. If ethereal auras were visible, Jessica’s would be pink and fuzzy, and it would probably sparkle in the sunlight.

Cass Lake 2018 Holiday Party.
Left to Right: Barb J, Michelle C, Julie S, Jessica D, Jean B.

Her happiness is wonderful in meetings, which are otherwise often dull and boring. Jess has a great laugh, bursting straight out of her heart; it is the glorious sound of freedom, a bird’s song of warm sunshine and wind ruffling his feathers as he soars through the open sky. Try to be stressed and frustrated in front of Jessica, I dare you. When you start to explain your problems, they suddenly won’t seem so bad any more. She’ll tell you “it’s OK, we’ll get through it.” And, poof – she’s right. It’s that simple. We will get through it.

Shine on, Jessica!

It’s easy to understand Jessica’s success in hospice, and as a nurse in general. A ray of sunshine in a cloudy and often difficult time, she’s exactly the type of personality to lift everyone’s spirits. Picture her sweet-talking her patients and showing them there’s nothing else that matters in the world. To Jessica, that’s the truth! She loves our HealthStar clients and pours her heart and soul into making sure that our team has the tools to deliver the best possible care!

While similar care is provided in both hospice and home care, there is a much more personal aspect to home care, because of the need for service to be provided in the Client’s living space. Jess has a great understanding of what this means to Clients. She expresses gratitude and compassion toward HealthStar’s Clients and says that she is honored to be invited into their homes. Her humility and friendliness help set Clients at ease.

Flexibility, much?

Some things are critical to a successful career at HealthStar. A sense of humor, I say. A love of food? Probably. The gift of patience? Can’t hurt. How about the ability to roll with the punches, to re-prioritize when a target shifts, or to “be the willow,” as our long-time employee Cathy Rivas-Carballo says. In my opinion, this is critical. HealthStar staff have an informal motto: “Give it a minute, things will change!”

Cass Lake 2018 Holiday Party.
Left to Right: Michelle C, Karen M, Jean B, Jessica D, Julie S.

Why is flexibility important? Take Jessica’s HealthStar history as an example. In her RN role, she started at HealthStar shortly after our transition from PCA/HMK agency to Medicare-certified agency. In the time Jess has been with us, the layout, structure, and focus of HealthStar’s branch offices, the organizational chart, and even our office addresses have changed. We have added and subtracted service offerings, and we have changed software programs many, many times. Staff have come and gone, sometimes more than once. (We joke about a revolving door. In a good way!) Throughout all these changes, Jess and the rest of our Corporate staff have flexed and sometimes flailed in the wind, but with flexibility on our side, we haven’t broken. We almost never make jokes about having a new priority. Instead, we come together as a team, again and again, and figure out how to continue.

But wait, there’s more…

Jess has also ridden the wave of change in her personal journey at HealthStar. Not including her time as CNA, Jessica first worked at Corporate, transferred to Duluth, transferred back to Corporate, and now lives in the Duluth/Cloquet area but still represents the Corporate office. Wait, what? Don’t worry about the details; the moral of the story is, she’s plenty flexible, and she goes with the flow. Jessica’s humility and “true to your roots” attitude make her approachable, and she always talks us down off the branches when things get a little too windy in that willow tree.

Open heart, open mind

Something that not everyone may know about Jessica is that, in addition to being an RN, she embraces a very unique skill set of healing. She is a Certified Level II Reiki Practitioner and says that blending western medicine and alternative medicine helps her to treat people holistically. Reiki has been around for thousands of years and is sometimes called “the laying of hands.” In practice, Reiki focuses on the transfer of healing energy from practitioner to patient, to revitalize the healing energy in the patient.

Maybe this explains why Jess has such grace and love for all of us – by sensing the energy around her, she sees more than just a single facet of a person, giving her a greater understanding of what makes us all tick. By keeping an open mind, and trying something different, Jessica is bringing a new perspective to HealthStar. There is something different about Jessica, and maybe this explains a little bit of that difference. There’s a lot that we can’t fully understand, but instead of dismissing those things, Jessica has embraced possibility and puts healing energy to great use.

But what about those shoes?

Yes, Jessica has some of the cutest shoes that I’ve ever seen. With my big clompers, I won’t be wearing anything like her shoe wardrobe. She’s not shoe crazy, she just has good taste. I know, this is four things, and usually I only do three, but this one is short. Great shoes. Hardly counts as a fourth.

By the way, Jess – how do you drive that big pickup truck with those fashion forward shoes on? And do you still wear heels when you go ice fishing?

Thanks for the positivity!

Corporate is lucky to have Jessica’s happiness, positivity, flexibility, and open mind on our side. Her love of HealthStar’s Clients shines through in every meeting. She is absolutely a strong advocate and spokesperson for the Client’s perspective and needs in receiving care. Jessica has brought a wonderful attitude of love and acceptance to HealthStar Corporate, and she has extended that attitude to the branch offices and to all of our Clients. We can’t wait to show you the benefits of this sense of love and caring!