Karen Schneggenburger’s Story

Being a clinical coordinator can be a challenging job. The nursing leadership role involves overseeing a staff team on the neighborhood as well as ensuring the physical and emotional well-being of residents. There is also the charge of managing communication—with staff members, with residents, as well as with residents’ family members.

With all of that responsibility, Karen Schneggenburger believes that the first thing she does when she walks onto the Hastings 3 neighborhood just might be the most important thing she does all day. “If you come in with a smile on your face and a good attitude saying ‘today is going to be a good day, regardless of what happens,’ you set that tone for the day,” she explains. “I feel like that’s where my job starts.”

If you have worked with Karen in any capacity over the years, you will not be surprised to hear that she always knew she wanted to be a nurse. “I’m a caregiver,” she says. “I’m a caretaker.”  Karen even references a time at a very young age when her own grandfather asked her what she wanted to do for a living. “I want to take care of people” was her answer, and that is exactly what she has done.

Karen started her 30th year at St. John’s Home earlier this summer and this nurse with a natural ability to care for others is still going strong. Prior to going to nursing school, Karen was a respiratory therapist for 8 years. In 1994, she joined the St. John’s family and has remained here ever since.

It is that word— family—that truly resonates with Karen–so much so that it helps explain why she has remained in long-term care for as long as she has. “St. John’s is my family,” she says.  She brings such an interesting philosophy to caring for older adults and the importance of doing so with “dignity and pride” on every shift. “They are historians,” she says of residents living throughout St. John’s Home. “They can give us a lot of guidance. They’ve lived through a lot and they can give us their knowledge and experience and teach us a lot.”

Karen says that the greatest knowledge she is able to gleam from the residents she cares for is “how to persevere through rough times.” Her management style involves taking this knowledge passed on from the residents on Hastings 3 to help bring proper perspective for others providing care on her team. “I talk about being in the resident’s shoes,” she explains. She points out how residents living in long-term care have been resilient over their entire lifetimes. Now that those residents require greater support, it is up to employees to show a similar resiliency when facing challenges throughout their shifts. She knows that negative attitudes on the neighborhood will affect residents in a negative way.

Karen admits the clerical responsibilities of her job can be daunting, yet she makes sure those duties do not get in the way of one-on-one time with residents. “I have my routine of things I need to do—and sometimes that routine goes out the window,” she says, alluding to emergencies or challenges that can come up when working in a nursing home. “You have to prioritize and my priority is the residents,” says Karen. She learned from a former nurse manager that “sometimes it has to be paperwork away, focus on the residents.”

Another long-time St. John’s employee calls Karen “one of the hardest working people I know.”

So why has she stayed at St. John’s for as long as she has? It seems the old idiom—Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life—applies to Karen. “There is not a day here that is boring. Every single day here is different. I stay here because I enjoy my job.”

Karen’s own mother was recently a resident at St. John’s Home before her passing last year. “My mom loved it here,” she says. Karen feels that her mom’s positive, albeit brief experience at St. John’s illustrates how her commitment to honoring the residents with the care and respect they deserve is shared throughout the organization. “I saw the excellent care—the compassion of the nurses,” she says. “It was a true testament to the care we give.”

 See more from the dedicated employees of St. John’s.