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A Day in the Life of a Swingbed Activity Director

How It Began


My name is Ruth Martanis and I have been in Activities for over 18 years. I began as an Activity Aide in a LTC facility for many years. Eventually the county nursing home I worked for was closing and I needed to find a new job. I was fortunate that the pharmacists at the nursing home also worked at the local hospital and offered me a job. After a few years our small, rural hospital started up a Swingbed Program (which means short term rehabilitation) and my boss recommended me for the job as the Activity Director. I have been in that position for over 7 years now.

Career Evolution
Soon after accepting that position I began taking the required MEPAP (the Modular Education Program for Activity Professionals) courses to obtain my Activity Director Certification. I am proud to say I have been an Activity Director and a NCCAP (the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals) Consultant for Activity Directors Network for the past 6 years. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me personally.

Swingbed Program
My facility has a total of 16 beds. Because the facility doubles as a hospital we receive a variety of patients with needs ranging from the standard hip/knee rehabilitation, 6-8 weeks IV antibiotics, wound VAC (therapeutic system for wound healing) care, stroke rehabilitation, heart surgery recovery, and general de-conditioning issues. Due to the temporary nature of our care, we can have a patient for a week to a month or more. I never know when and how long the patient will need care for, therefore planning activity programming to meet their needs can be challenging at times. Over the years I have learned a few tricks of the trade and the importance of allowing for creativity and spontaneity.

A Day in the Life
Most days begin with checking on patients, greeting them for the day and inquiring about their night. After their therapy, I encourage patients to stay in the solarium for an activity that may include arts and crafts, adding articles to our history book, etc. Through my experience I have discovered that people in this rural area have roots that run deep and pride in their ancestral history, so a few years back I created a history book of stories and events for our area. I use the book as a communication starter, source for research inspiration and a document for which they can add their own personal stories. The book has become a huge component of the program and brings much joy to the patients and their families. I also encourage patients to join me for lunch in the solarium each day. When enjoying a meal together, the patients seem to open up more and inform me of different aspects of the program they enjoy. This is a great way to connect, foster a sense of well-being and community, as well as guide me in my programming. Outside of the facility I have a garden in the spring and summer where I like to host arts and crafts projects. A particularly popular project I began 3 years ago involves painting kindness rocks. Originally we would paint kind words on them and place them around the facility. Over time it occurred to me that we could take this idea and make a difference in the lives of others through the Relay for Life program. We began painting rocks for survivors and their care givers, with the intention of bringing comfort and inspiration to those in need. I found that participation increased when the activity was created to improve or honor the lives of others going through trying times. Allowing patients to feel useful for others and their community fostered a sense of purpose. Now many of my activities are community based, from kindness rocks to helping make decorations for the hospital floats featured in bi annual parades in our town.

Why I Do It
One of the most fulfilling aspects of my job is when a patient returns for an appointment or outpatient therapy and comes by my department to visit and inform me that they have continued with the ideas planted from our time together and they have even expanded upon them within the community or their churches. They say that being a part of the program opened their eyes to new ways they can reach out and help others and create more fulfilling lives for themselves with meaningful activities. The fact that I can be even a small part of something like that brings me great joy and pride in what I do as an Activity Director for a Swingbed Program.

Does this sound like the job for you? Begin your education by enrolling in the MEPAP program through Activity Directors Network. You are only 16 weeks away from making a real difference in your own community. Have questions? Call us at 888.238.0444 and we are happy to help guide you in the process.

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