Featuring: Michelle Stull, CNA & Head of Housekeeping, Providence Place Senior Living Chambersburg

Students of Greek mythology may remember Proteus, the old man of the sea—god of elusive sea change. As the story goes, Proteus knew everything, past and present and future, but would only divulge this knowledge to those who could capture him. And capturing him was difficult because he could easily escape by changing his shape and disappearing. Over the years, the adjective protean, has come to mean “capable of assuming many forms,” and in the very positive sense—versatile, flexible and adaptable.

A sea change is exactly what senior living facilities have been going through ever since COVID came to their shores. And versatile, flexible, and adaptable are the qualities these facilities have come to count on in their caregiving staff. While specialization is never a bad thing, being able to adapt to changes in the work environment can help caregivers help their residents weather a difficult period.

Michelle Stull at her surprise Ceca Award celebration

Michelle Stull, Head of Housekeeping at Providence Place Senior Living in Chambersburg, PA, is one such protean caregiver. When a winter storm blanketed the state with 12 inches of snow, making it hard for staff to get to work, Michelle stepped-up to fill-in on the front desk until the evening receptionist could get in. When a resident was transitioning to hospice and family members were trying to clean out the room to make space for hospital beds and special furniture, Michelle showed up with the vacuum, cleaned the room spotlessly, and made up the beds with “the softest mattress pads” and fresh linens. When there was a staffing shortage in the kitchen and every resident in the entire building was waiting for breakfast, Michelle stepped in to prepare the coffee, make eggs and toast, and serve meals to the first-floor residents. And when a shy new resident was trying club Bingo, Michelle jumped in to help her get acquainted and start playing so she could more fully enjoy her experience.

It was for extraordinary acts of caregiving like these that Michelle Stull was honored with the Ceca Award. It was not so much for her ability to organize, manage, move furniture, and cook and clean, but for her teamwork—for being able to step into different roles and departments to keep the facility safe and secure for the residents. And for her empathy—stepping up to make a bad day bearable for a family in hospice, and for displaying the respect and compassion Providence Place has for its residents.

It’s no surprise that Michelle possesses a range of skills that today’s specialists would find astounding. She was born and raised in Franklin County – Pennsylvania farm country. Working on her grandfather’s farm, she learned early on that you had to keep moving and work as a team to get everything done. Her grandfather instilled in Michelle a strong work ethic, which she in turn instilled in her children, and in her staff. She grew up loving animals and kids and caring for her grandmother who had dementia. After school, she took a CNA class and found she loved working in assisted living. Then, her own children came into the picture, so she took a job cooking within the school district to better align her work schedule to theirs. Once they were on their own and COVID hit, Michelle pivoted back to caregiving. She took the job of a housekeeper at Providence Place and was quickly promoted.

Michelle’s favorite experience is spending time with the residents. “They make you smile,” she muses. “One gentleman is 101 years old, and every day it looks like something exploded in his room, and we have to clean it up. But he just smiles and says, ‘They had another party here last night while I was sleeping!’”

Sadly, her worst experience was losing the first resident to COVID. “It’s really rough to watch. Some people in the area don’t take it seriously. They think it’s all manufactured. I tell family members who are against the vaccine that, until you’ve watched someone suffer with it and pass from it, you can’t really make a judgement about it.”

She urges people to take it seriously, as everyone at Providence Place is trying hard to protect the residents and each other. And she hopes people come back to work. “If it’s your grandparents in here, you would want people to care enough to come back. It’s not just a job,” she explains. “Residents depend on you, they know you, they trust you. It’s not about how many rooms get cleaned, it’s about how you treat the residents.”

Michelle was shocked when she received the Ceca Award. “I thought I was going to a meeting about COVID, and then they opened the door and there was a celebration! Honestly, I just do my job every day – doing what I need to do for the residents.” Michelle is also great about nominating peers for the Ceca Award. “It’s rewarding to be recognized, but it’s also rewarding to be the kind of person who notices what others are doing,” she said.

As adept and adaptable as Michelle is, she knows the priority is not really the task at hand – making the bed, answering the phone, cleaning the room, or cooking the eggs. Her priority is always the residents. But there are still tasks to complete, and in today’s fast changing seascape, Michelle Stull’s protean talents – versatility, flexibility and adaptability – have helped shape-shift her into an extraordinary caregiver.

To schedule an interview with one of our featured caregivers, contact us at prinquiries@cecafoundation.org.