Member Spotlight: Mikala Kenkel of Elm Crest Retirement Community

February 11, 2021

Mikala Kenkel entered the long-term care profession when she was in high school and it sparked her passion for a career in caring for the elderly. As a dietary aide at Elm Crest Retirement Community in Harlan, she has learned practical skills that help her in her course of study as a physical therapy assistant, and she has learned that each person has a story and background that impact how they respond to situations. Additionally, Mikala was a 2020 IHCA Foundation scholarship recipient. Congratulations on this achievement and we wish you the best as you continue your health care career!

How did you get started in the long-term care profession?
I wanted a part-time job while I was in high school. This was going to be my first “real” job. I wanted something to challenge me and introduce me to this side of health care. At this point, I was not sure what career path I wanted to choose, so this gave me a great opportunity to learn. Little did I know that this would be something I would discover as more than just a job – it has given me a heart for the elderly and a spark for a career path.

What do you like most about working in long-term care?
I love getting to know each of the residents that I care for and developing relationships with them. When I go to work, it doesn’t feel like work. I often get lost in time when telling them about my life or listening to their stories. Some of the residents I care for have become close friends, and I enjoy every little bit of time I share with them.

What would you tell others to encourage them to consider a career in long-term care?
When people think of the elderly, they might think of grumpy old people who complain and have nothing good to say. However, working in a nursing home is the opposite of this. There may be some challenges, but understanding where a resident has come from and what they have gone through will cause you to develop compassion for them. In addition, one will quickly learn that most of the residents are the sweetest people on earth and just want someone to talk to. I love hearing their stories and they love hearing mine. I encourage people to look past the external and the limitations many residents have and see the “real them”on the inside – it will greatly impact your life.

What lessons have you learned working in long-term care that also help you outside of work?
I have learned several lessons while working in a long-term care facility, such as skills that will be valuable in my course of study as a physical therapy assistant and in life in general. For practical skills, I have learned how to use assistive devices such as wheelchairs and walkers. More importantly, I have learned that each person has a story and a background that impacts how they interact with others and how they respond to situations. This understanding has helped me with my interactions with people, both within and outside my place of work.

When you’re not at work, what do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy spending time with my family! We love going camping, boating, city/shopping adventures and hanging out at home. We seem to always be turning life into something to laugh about or have fun with. We really value and enjoy one another.

More about the Member Spotlight
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We will feature the Member Spotlights in the Weekly Bulletin, the IHCA Facebook page and the IHCA website.