When Ashley Hrywnak started at St. John’s Home in June 2016, she was “a brand new CNA.” That however did not mean that her new job as a certified nursing assistant was her first time working with older adults. In fact, Hrywnak had spent the previous twelve years at a skilled nursing facility, working in housekeeping and laundry, as a dietary cook, leading activities, and at the concierge desk. “I just wanted more interaction with residents,” remembers Hrywnak. “So I went for my CNA license (at Rochester Education Opportunity Center), and that’s when I came here.”
Hyrnwak was still on maternity leave at her previous employer when she started working towards her license. As a newly minted CNA following completion of the program, she targeted only one long-term care community for work. “I’d heard so many great things about St. John’s, and it was the only place I applied to,” she says. Upon her hire, Hyrnwak started working overnight shifts at St. John’s Home before moving to weekends about six months later.
Then in 2020, Hyrnwak took the next leap in her career by pursing a nursing degree. “I had done pretty much everything (in long-term care), I just wanted to expand my career and help the residents,” she says. She enrolled at the Isabella Graham Hart School of Practical Nursing and worked towards becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). Once she became a nurse, she chose to remain at St. John’s Home.
After working on a Beyond Memory floor since becoming an LPN, Hyrnwak received another recent promotion, becoming Clinical Coordinator on the South 5 neighborhood. “Working with (people living with) dementia, every single day is different,” Hyrnwak explains. “You never really know what you’re going to get. I just try to come in with a smile on my face.” She describes how there are so many different personalities and situations at play that keep her and her coworkers on their toes. “You have to have a calm demeanor, you have to be patient. It’s a wonderful job,” she says.
Hyrnwak also says “you have to make things fun” when working with dementia populations, which makes her previous experience in activities such an asset to the residents for whom she provides care. As a nurse, Hyrnwak’s work is now mostly clinical in nature; though she continues to incorporate fun into her work as a way to make residents more comfortable. “You’ll hear music on our floor a lot,” she says. “We like to try to keep things light; there is lots of dancing.”
A self-described “old soul at heart,” Hyrnwak says she keeps her office door open while documenting and making phone calls for reasons other than being able to hear the music playing down the hall. “It’s an open-door policy for residents and staff; their families too,“ she says. “I want to be more involved, and this way I can hear and make sure that everything is okay.”
Interested in following Ashley’s footsteps at St. John’s? Click here to see our current openings.