The Future Leaders Awards program is brought to you in partnership with PointClickCare. The program is designed to recognize up-and-coming industry members who are shaping the next decade of senior housing, skilled nursing, home health and hospice care. To see this year’s future leaders, visit Future Leaders online.
Courtney Hancock, vice president of clinical services at Validus Senior Living, has been named a 2023 Future Leader by Senior Housing News.
To become a Future Leader, an individual is nominated by their peers. The candidate must be a high-performing employee who is 40-years-old or younger, a passionate worker who knows how to put vision into action, and an advocate for seniors and the committed professionals who ensure their well-being.
Hancock spoke with SHN about how senior living found her instead of the other way around, and why the senior living industry is like a hearty plant.
What drew you to this industry?
Honestly, senior living found me. I got into healthcare, in general, because I had a strong desire to serve and be a voice for the vulnerable. It is how I originally found myself working with women and children. In nursing school I never had the exposure to senior living so it really wasn’t something I initially considered.
Sadly, I grew up with only one grandparent fully present in my life, my Papa, who was such a profound influence and the ultimate patriarch of our family. His storytelling we still regurgitate all these years after he has physically left us.
About 13 years after becoming a nurse and working in leadership in acute care, I found myself at a dinner with our current President and CFO discussing senior living and the need for outside perspectives, advocacy, and visibility in the world at large. Her passion for changing the lives of an often overlooked population was inspiring and made me want to learn more and join the cause to shine a light on the aging population. That was a little over 5 years ago. It has not always been easy, but it is always rewarding advocating, honoring and serving the generations that have paved the way.
What’s your biggest lesson learned since starting to work in this industry?
Oh man, every day feels like a new lesson. This industry has challenged me and changed me more than any other experience I have had thus far. It reminds me to be curious. Compared to other sectors of healthcare, senior living is still in its infancy … or perhaps adolescence.
Many of the ways we do things or know things to be done in senior housing is because the pioneers of the industry gave it their best shot. We are now at a time where we have to take a step back and appreciate all the work that was done while also challenging ourselves to ask if it still makes sense for us to operate in that manner.
Senior living has taught me to keep asking questions until we have a better understanding of the real challenge/question/purpose. I have learned what my mom has been telling me since childhood, not to ever assume I know the answer.
If you could change one thing with an eye toward the future of senior living, what would it be?
I would hit rewind a little. I think 2020 forced our industry to become more clinical than it was originally intended to be. We saw the first-hand adverse effects of isolation and clinical intervention. We were an industry founded on humans helping humans. I’d like to get back there.
As a clinician I am acutely aware that intervention breeds intervention, meaning the more we medically approach our health, the more we have to. So I would like to change the model back to a more holistic, human-centered care approach where we look at all aspects of a residents life, not just their medical chart. We need to remember we only one component of a collaborative team in which the resident should be the quarterback.
What do you foresee as being different about the senior living industry looking ahead to 2024?
I think we are going to see continued challenges with inflation and interest rates in a stressed financial climate, however, I do think there is a lot of positive momentum coming from these challenges. I think we will see a lot more collaboration across the industry between competitors, vendors, insurers, and financial institutions. For advocacy alone, this will be a tremendous step forward for our industry, and ultimately, the resident we serve.
In a word, how would you describe the future of senior living?
Philodendron. (I know it’s quirky, but philodendrons are determined to survive in any environment. And one thing I’ve learned about senior living is that we are resilient).
What quality must all future leaders possess?
I think all future leaders must hang on to their curiosity. We must continue to challenge the status quo and be open to other perspectives. Being a lifelong learner is key to being a leader.
If you could give advice to yourself looking back to your first day in the industry, what would it be and why?
Remember to celebrate every tiny victory. I think we always get caught up in the next thing that we often lose sight of the little wins along the way.