Full Transcript:

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

This is Valerie VanBoouven with the Senior Care Industry Net Cast, where leaders with three or more years in the senior care industry share their advice. So let’s get to it. In a few sentences, tell us who you are and what you do.

Sonja Gunter:

I’m Sonja Gunter. I’m the executive director at an assisted living here in the great state of Georgia, city of Marietta.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Awesome. And tell us the name of your assisted living facility.

Sonja Gunter:

It is the Heritage of Marietta, and I want to add, I’m also a nurse for 17 years. So, I’m a nurse and an executive director. Yes.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Well, very good. Nice to have you.

Sonja Gunter:

Thank you.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Tell us what is the best thing about serving seniors and their families?

Sonja Gunter:

Seeing the smiles. I love the stories of who they once were when it comes to professions and careers and their early lives. And so just to treat them with respect and dignity and make sure that their last years are their best years, it’s probably the best feeling in the world.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Absolutely. We all deserve that dignity and respect, don’t we?

Sonja Gunter:

Absolutely.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

And we all have great stories too about our lives.

Sonja Gunter:

Yes.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Okay. I hear from other senior service providers in the market that online marketing can be challenging, it’s ever changing. And of course, right now we’re not able to see people or our marketing partners or our referral sources as often as we’d like, or maybe at all. So what has been your experience and thoughts with online marketing?

Sonja Gunter:

Online marketing was a challenge a few months ago, but I will say that since it’s been now the new norm and I think everybody’s kind of gotten to their own groove, it has forced us to get creative and to think outside the box. So actually for a person like me, who I don’t like the routine and the day to day, I like things to be a little exciting and spontaneous, it’s been a good challenge. I do well with challenges under pressure so, I’ve been enjoying it.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Good. That’s awesome. Yeah, it has been a really quick and hard lesson for a lot of folks because it’s something, we’re all having to learn new skills, but actually some of those skills like just having a Zoom call like this, or doing more videos online is kind of probably going to be really important moving forward.

Sonja Gunter:

Absolutely. Got to learn.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. All right. I imagine that in your life, in your career, there have been other organizations or successful leaders, or maybe even your mom and dad, who’ve made a difference in your world. Who would you like to give a shout out to?

Sonja Gunter:

There are a few people in my career… I Actually wrote a book and…

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Wow.

Sonja Gunter:

… I dedicated that information [inaudible 00:02:55] to them. So Jeannie Pete is one who’s in the industry here in Atlanta. I met her about six years ago. She’s made a big influence on me, just leadership style. And of course, my father who influenced me years ago to go into healthcare. I never knew that I would end up going this far in the career. And so thanks dad for the advice and for pushing me this direction.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Awesome. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your book or the name of it?

Sonja Gunter:

Sure. So my book is called “Traits of a professional leader,” how to level up in healthcare. It’s on Amazon. And so it is a book of about, and forgive me, it’s about 12 chapters. I haven’t looked at it myself a little bit, but it does talk about the different traits that it takes to become a leader in healthcare. Professionalism, integrity, emotional intelligence, education, passion. So those are just a few of the chapters and it talks about that. So along with my own personal story interweaved in those chapters, there’s also quotes from other famous people that resonate with the title of the particular chapter. It’s great. My first book.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Very nice. Congratulations-

Sonja Gunter:

Thank you.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

And I don’t know how long it’s been out, but sounds like you took a lot of time and put a lot of heart and soul into that. And I’m always love to know, I’m sure there’s a lot of folks out there who are just beginning this career, maybe they’re a director already, or maybe they’re a CNA or a new nurse, but learning what it takes to move up that ladder in healthcare, is [inaudible 00:04:40]. Thank you.

Sonja Gunter:

Yeah. It is.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s awesome.

Sonja Gunter:

Yes. Thank you.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

All right. What piece of advice would you give to other senior care providers?

Sonja Gunter:

Patience. Patience is probably the biggest thing. And I say that because it’s always a challenge in healthcare, dealing with a loved one, a resident, a patient, however you want to look at it, but then you always have that extra piece of dealing with the family as well. That adds extra challenges onto it. But now, even now with COVID becoming a part of that, of that wheel, patience, you know people are panicked. They’re scared. They’re not understanding. They don’t know, none of us really know. And so now you have that added concern and it makes it tough. So just patience with people when they’re questioning you and you know, it’s not personal, they just, they need extra hand, extra help.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. They’re worried. They’re worried about their family, especially right now, when you can’t see people as much as you’d like to or visit the way you would like to visit.

Sonja Gunter:

Absolutely.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

And yeah, I know things are changing a little bit and maybe opening back up, semi opening back up, day to day, what are we going to do? What are we not going to do? And I understand that, not being able to see your loved one is super challenging, but I also know that facilities like yours and in communities around the country have done a really good job of improvising and using those, like Face Timing and Zoom calls and trying to be as proactive as possible about making sure everybody’s still staying in touch. So we got to give a lot of credit to folks like you who are trying their very best to get loved ones continuously in touch with each other and making sure everyone knows that everybody’s okay. And that [inaudible 00:06:42] are rolling along as usual.

Sonja Gunter:

Yeah. And we implemented a lot of things. I’ve amped up communication in our building. So my resident care coordinator calls the families once a week just to give an update on things in the building. I do a coffee and chat with my family Zoom call once a month, we do porch visits, with the weather changing, we’ve added outdoor heaters. We’re in the process of adding outdoor heaters for that. So we’re doing what we can to keep that [inaudible 00:07:13]. Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Absolutely. Yeah. And that sounds great. I mean, that’s a lot of great ideas for others too. Those porch visits and adding the heaters is a great option. I mean-

Sonja Gunter:

Yes.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

You have people all over the country that watch and see this and some places are much colder than others already.

Sonja Gunter:

Yep. Yes.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. Adding those outside heaters for families to stay comfortable when they visit, awesome.

Sonja Gunter:

Yep. Yep.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

All right. So when you have a win in life or in business, and that could mean anything from a resident, having a great day to a family being happy to a birthday celebration or whatever, how do you like to celebrate?

Sonja Gunter:

I like to dance. I love music. So even in the community, we always have music playing, but what is exciting and we had a really good win, like I had one today. So when I get off the phone here with you off the interview, I’m going to crank up some dancing music in the hallways and celebrate with the staff and the residents. Just always a good time.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. Dancing. We’ve had that one. I always am interested in what people are going to say, because we’ve heard everything, everything pretty much in dancing is like your number… You’re the second person that said dancing. And I appreciate that. Because that’s always a good time. It gets everybody moving and gets everybody in the groove for a happy day. So, that’s awesome.

Sonja Gunter:

Yes. Yes.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

ALL right. Well, thank you so much for doing this interview for sharing your wisdom with us. We’ll make sure that we highlight the name of your book and the folks that you have given a shout out to so that other people can take advantage of that. And maybe read your book too. That’s awesome. Thank you.

Sonja Gunter:

I appreciate it. Thank you so much for the opportunity.