Before taking on the top job at the Comprehensive Care Center’s Activities Department, Michele Hunt spent her adult life working in roles that involved women’s reproductive health, Rape Crisis, domestic violence shelters, and teen pregnancy while also raising three children.
Her educational background was even further away from skilled nursing – she earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in anthropology and languages.
She recently worked in retail management in the Lompoc wine industry and was a busy fitness instructor at a local gym.
When the CCC Activities Director position was posted two years ago, she recalls, “the stars aligned,” and she applied. She was hired within days.
“Healthcare has a value to me as a human being,” she explained. “It’s a value to our community and our world.”
She’d always had great care when she was a patient at LVMC and delivered two of her three children at the old hospital site on C Street.
“I thought it would be a good organization for which to work,” she noted. “I thrive off of a new challenge and learning something new. Long-term care was so new to me.”
An Activities Department job was perfect – it involves her strengths, such as being social, having good relationships with people, dealing with the public and people from varied backgrounds, and being personable and chatty.
“I am in the exact perfect spot right now,” Michele says. “Every day, I pinch myself that I get to be part of these people’s lives and part of their story. I’m passionate about this.”
The CCC Activities monthly calendar represents the diversity and spirit Michele brings to the job – not only are there the traditional events such as storytime, bingo, and craft corner but now there are brain teasers, Pinata Birthday bashes, gardening, picnic at the beach and yoga. Twice a month, LVMC’s CEO Steve Popkin goes to the CCC during his lunch hour and plays the piano. There are spiritual hours, religious times, and Catholic Mass on Sundays. The Pan Dulce Social and Donut Sunrise are countered with Fruity Friday and Root Beer Floats. Manicures are on the schedule, as are Blackjack and snacks. There’s pet therapy, a Resident Council, and ball toss. Evert Saturday at 6 p.m., Michele books live, local entertainment. Most days, there are offerings from early morning until late afternoon.
“I have a lot of creative licenses,” said Michele, who finished her Activities Director certification before the pandemic.
“My team has been amazing,” she says. “I came into this job not knowing anything and ready to sink my teeth into learning. My team was thrown all this newness. I made a lot of changes in the department, and they rolled with it and supported me. I happen to be the director, but we’re a team.”
With the more physical activities, such as a ball toss, she and her team work with the CCC’s physical and occupational therapy department to ensure residents can complete the appropriate range of motion during scheduled sessions.
For field trips, Michele says it is vital that those who are able have a chance to smell the fresh air and see nature. A recent lunch field trip took several residents to Beattie Park and the Fallen Warrior Memorial. Another younger resident asked to be taken to Ocean Beach park, so he and Activities Supervisor Joe Lugo took the drive. Michele hopes to find a benefactor someday or have a fundraiser to buy a larger passenger van for CCC field trips.
During non-Covid times, some of the male residents went to the Elks Lodge for a monthly luncheon, while some of the women walked or were pushed in wheelchairs the three blocks to LVMC for a “Ladies Café” luncheon. Other employees are invited to join, and when appropriate, family members as well.
“Living doesn’t need to just be under this roof,” Michele says.
Many people may be afraid of visiting a long-term nursing facility, and Michele said she too had to overcome the obstacles she had about death and long-term care. Her goal is to make sure the residents have “a vibrant day.”
“These people are our families,” Michele says. “I don’t come to work. I come to another piece of my family. “