Bob Wesley remembers having a singular motivation for entering the health care field over two decades ago: “I enjoy making a difference in people’s lives.”
Today, Bob’s brand of difference making involves being at the bedsides of nursing home residents and providing solutions to the greatest challenges ever faced in the history of long-term care. That has meant constantly being on the move—which is why on any given day, at any given time, Bob can be found just about anywhere across the dozen or so neighborhoods at St. John’s Home. The continuous nature of Bob’s work—delivering support directly to residents when it is needed the most—fits him just fine.
Bob Wesley manages infection control measures at St. John’s. Most years that has meant overseeing community-wide precautions against influenza during the fall and winter months, while keeping an eye out for the spread of bacterial infections. However, 2020 brought with it the worst pandemic the world had seen in over a century, posing a disproportionate threat to older adults. Like the rest of St. John’s clinical team, the contagious nature of COVID-19 has had a profound impact on Bob’s work.
Since there was no handbook on COVID-19, Bob and the clinical team at St. John’s Home spent months developing strategies to contain the spread of the disease. As an advanced practice nurse, Bob took a leadership role in learning all he could about COVID-19 and how it spreads while putting infection control measures in place to protect vulnerable nursing home residents. He helped implement a complex resident testing plan while adhering to changing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the New York State Department of Health.
“We look to Bob for input when it relates to anything infection control-related,” says Julie Wood, assistant director of nursing at St. John’s. “He has risen to the challenge of being our infection preventionist in the face of COVID.”
As a testament to Bob’s work and the team’s commitment to containing the spread of COVID-19, the Department of Health’s frequent infection control surveys have found no clinical-related deficiencies at St. John’s Home throughout the pandemic. In recognition of Bob’s extraordinary efforts working to keep residents safe during the pandemic, he was recently named by the Rochester Business Journal as a 2021 Health Care Hero in the “Medical Professional” category.
Despite this recent recognition, Bob speaks in modest terms about his work, praising the clinical team he collaborates with and the overall culture at St John’s. “I really enjoy the family aspect of working here,” says Bob. “Everybody pulls together to help. There’s a great team dynamic here.”
Still, Bob’s seemingly endless energy and tireless work ethic sets an incredibly positive example for those with whom he works. “Like so many in the nursing field, Bob approaches a challenge by saying ‘let’s find a way to make this work,’” says St. John’s Vice President of Skilled Services Nate Sweeney. “Bob always rises to occasion. During times of crisis, he works hard to be where he is needed and has the perseverance to see things through, regardless of the situation.”
A veteran of the United States Navy, Bob actually got his start in health care as a hospital corpsman in Bethesda, Maryland at what is now known as Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. So passionate is Bob about working with and recognizing veterans, he came to work on Veterans Day 2020 in full Naval uniform and personally visited each resident who served in the military (nearly 50 veterans) to thank them for their service. “The people who live here haven’t had any visitors in almost a year,” Bob explained at the time. “It’s important to be able to bring some personal touches to our residents.”
Outside of St. John’s, Bob is active with the American Legion Post 0394 in Williamson, Wayne County. He also volunteers extensively with Honor Flight Rochester, a popular initiative that sends groups of retired military personnel on trips to Washington, D.C. to tour war monuments and share a special weekend with fellow veterans. In fact, once flights resume, Bob is set to serve as the Trip Safety Leader, the highest safety responsibility on the mission.
Bob’s clinical background qualifies him for this new volunteer role, but it is Bob’s character that makes him a perfect fit. Those who speak highly of Bob outside of St. John’s echo the reasons that make Bob a person you can count on whatever the situation may be. “He is compassionate, caring, and can relate to any age group,” says Greg Foust, Vice President of Volunteer Services at Honor Flight Rochester. “He has an engaging personality and constantly goes above and beyond.”