Future Leader: Courtney Cooke, Director of Clinical Social Work, MPAC Healthcare

The Future Leaders Awards program is brought to you in partnership with PointClickCare. The program is designed to recognize up-and-coming industry members who are shaping the next decade of senior housing, skilled nursing, home health and hospice care. To see this year’s future leaders, visit Future Leaders online.

Courtney Cooke, director of clinical social work at MPAC Healthcare, has been named a 2020 Future Leader by Skilled Nursing News.

To become a Future Leader, an individual is nominated by their peers. The candidate must be a high-performing employee who is 40-years-old or younger, a passionate worker who knows how to put vision into action, and an advocate for seniors, and the committed professionals who ensure their well-being.

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Cooke sat down with Skilled Nursing News to talk about how she came to skilled nursing and the benefits of clinical social work for the post-acute care population.

What drew you to the skilled nursing profession in the first place, and what kept you there?

After grad school, I started with children and adolescents, but then I just switched it up and did medical social work down in the Caribbean for a couple of years. Great experience, though it was so challenging. I was working on the med surg unit, I was working on the ICU, I was working in the emergency department. We had an outpatient hemodialysis unit. I gained so much experience, and I really, really loved working with adults and older adults in all of these medical capacities.

So when I finally came back to Chicago, I started working for a long-term care insurance company on processing different requests for services. That really helped pull me into this world of the aging population. I got to see more of what the needs are by people later in life. There’s so many needs, and there’s so many voices that are unheard, and so many people are silenced because they can’t really vocalize what their needs are. I just was really drawn to being an advocate for this population.

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I was given an amazing opportunity, through my current company, MPAC Healthcare, to hire me on to develop a program based on this idea and based on this belief in providing quality care to all people in the post-acute and long-term care environment. Once I was able to build out this program, we realized how much of an effect we had on this population, on the facilities that also struggled to provide care to all of the residents at that quality level that they want to, and just how much these residents benefited from the support services from a licensed clinical social worker. Once the program was built, we knew we had to expand it and scale it. The past couple of years, I’ve just been working on being able to not just individually help these residents and their families, but lead a team of incredible clinicians to be able to touch the lives of more and more people.

What’s your biggest lesson learned since starting to work in this industry and the work on this program? 

I would say it’s to continue to be diligent. It’s so important not to give up on something you believe so much in and knowing that there’s so many needs out there. That drives me every single day, is knowing how many lives are positively affected by the work that we do. That’s given me a lot of internal strength to just continue to push the limit and be progressive and continue to develop on ideas with the sole focus of providing quality care.

It’s weird to ask this because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a lot is changing about the skilled nursing world right now. But if there’s one thing that you could change with, specifically with an eye to the future of the skilled nursing industry, what would that be?

Overall, the big picture is that there’s no shortage of service needs. And there’s not going to be a shortage anytime soon. So I think that even with the pandemic, which – we’ve had to really think outside of the box as far as how we can find ways that’s safe for our clinicians, that’s safe for the aging population to be able to continue to provide services – I think that this overall landscape is only going to continue to benefit from companies like MPAC, because of our progressive and disruptive nature and approach in raising the standards for post-acute care. We’re constantly challenging how health care, especially mental health care, is approached and treated for the aging population. There’s this continuum of flexibility and adaptability with specifically the pandemic, but just change overall, because this landscape is changing, insurance and payer sources are changing, and we just need to be able to adapt to those changes with the focus of just providing quality care to this population.

To learn more about the Future Leaders program, visit the Future Leaders homepage.

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