Wendde Kneram, OTR/L, Director of Rehab with Infinity Rehab, completed the company’s Leadership Academy in 2019. This program allows clinicians to lead and impact change in their local area.
As a DOR at Prestige Care and Rehabilitation Center in Anchorage, Alaska, Wendde focused her project on cultural sensitivity and communication with Alaskan natives.

Running in like a bear

To start her Leadership Academy project, Wendde identified her core values.
“I found what motivated me is respect and dignity,” Wendde shared. “This is not so much a surprise, but more of a realized focus, and at times a conflict with my behavior, running in like a bear.”
During her presentation in front of fellow Leadership Academy scholars and leaders, Wendde identified the communication techniques that could come off as hostile: eye contact, short pauses, and direct questions. They also faced a language barrier.
Wendde expressed that she and her fellow team had difficulty connecting with the residents.
“We were missing crucial info, education regarding cultural awareness, and sensitivity,” she said.
Wendde had identified the problem. Now she needed a solution.

Enhancing communication

Wendde called in an expert, Melissa Consteneata, Elder Youth Program Manager with the Alaskan Native Tribal Council.
Together they coordinated three in-house workshops:

  • History of Alaska
  • Overview of Alaska native cultures
  • Communication techniques

They created a fact sheet for staff and as a resource for new employee orientations. Wendde was thrilled to report a success story during her Leadership Academy presentation.
A Native Alaskan gentleman was readmitted to Wendde’s building. The therapist expressed to Wendde that she was able to make a connection with him because of the new perspective she gained from the tools provided.
The patient said to Wendde, “I can work with you. Because you know me, and I know you.”
This is the impact of cultural sensitivity and understanding.

Wendde’s Leadership Academy experience

wendde-kneram-derek-2Wendde admitted she was concerned Leadership Academy would consume her energy, but she was surprised to discover the opposite.
“It gave me energy,” she expressed. “And because I was energized, it energized my team.”
Through her leadership efforts, Wendde has also identified projects important to the rehabilitation staff, such as oral care protocols, fall prevention after discharge, and dignity boxes complete with hair care items and clothing.
She was also proud to announce becoming a Certified Engagement Leader through Teppa Snow Positive Approach to Care.
Wendde concluded her presentation with the leadership practices key to Leadership Academy:
“I am proud to be an employee of Infinity who will lead by modeling the way, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act, and the most important, encouraging the heart.”

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