Baptism by fire: Newly licensed NHA steps in as COVID-19 hits

Lewisburg, Pennsylvania    Tuesday, September 29, 2020

In 2019, Kandi Winder was well on her way to completing the thousand hours of work in every department at Buffalo Valley Lutheran Village, a step she needed to complete to sit for her Nursing Home Administrator, or NHA, certification exam. The required hours would give her hands-on operational experience, complementing the 120-hour course she had already completed.

In fact, after 22 years at the Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, senior living community, Winder already knew the ins and outs of many operations, having used her varied educational background to handle jobs in purchasing, medical records, admissions, office management and health-information management. Becoming an NHA felt like the perfect next step.

Fast forward to March 2020.

Winder has completed the thousand-hour requirement and is prepared to sit for the exam, just as Pennsylvania and the entire country are facing the increasingly serious impact of the novel coronavirus.

“I was worried I couldn’t take my test in Harrisburg, that they would cancel or postpone it,” she says. “But it worked out.”

Winder describes how the current NHA testing comprises three different exams, covering every aspect of facility operations, but also dozens of applicable state and federal regulations. She passed successfully and was honored to move into the position of NHA at Buffalo Valley.

Then came an unexpected development ... 

Winder had to hit the ground running, as the coronavirus pandemic grew. She worked with Diakon leadership and the village team to plan for the safety and well-being of residents and staff.

“We were fielding questions and concerns from family members also, as we had to restrict visitation,” she says. “It was a day-to-day learning experience for everybody.”

Then came the most unexpected development.

“My husband tested positive for the virus,”  Winder explains.  “Then I got it.”

Following her required quarantine, Winder returned to the role she had worked so hard to achieve.

“I have wanted to be a Nursing Home Administrator for a long time,” she says. “There were times when I wasn’t sure I could do it. But it is worth it. It’s a role of great responsibility, but everybody’s opinion counts. It truly is a team effort and at Buffalo Valley, we have a superb team.”

Winder credits one more source of inspiration and instruction for her NHA role.

“Over the years, I have enjoyed working with our residents and the senior population here at Buffalo Valley, hearing their life stories and about their families,” she says. “That’s how we gain our knowledge: from our senior population. When it comes to our residents, I am very compassionate—as are all of our staff—about making their lives as meaningful as possible.”

“We are very proud of Kandi for the hard work, dedication and commitment it takes to become a Nursing Home Administrator,” says Robert Musser, who serves as senior executive director of the campus in his role as vice president for operations in Diakon Senior Living Services. “Working herself through the Diakon organization from health information to Nursing Home Administrator is quite an accomplishment. When you can grow talent from within your organization, it always has a much greater meaning. Her focus of resident first is making her an excellent administrator!”

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