Signature Healthcare of Fort Wayne, a nursing home facility located at 6006 Brandy Chase Cove, is David Holbrook’s second administration position held in the city. He’s been a practicing administrator since 2007 and has worked Signature for three years.
According to Holbrook, Fort Wayne has close to 40 nursing homes, “which is a lot for this size city,” but only one Signature. The closet sister facility is located in Bluffton, Indiana
The Bryan, Ohio-born Holbrook knew Signature was the one on his drive home from his job interview. “I felt they were making a difference in people’s lives,” Holbrook said. “The overall vision of the company is to radically change health care forever, and I believe they are doing that every day.”
Signature’s philosophy is based on six sacred values: compassion, teamwork, respect, integrity, patience, and positivity. “And I tell my team, just don’t follow these at work,” Holbrook said. “Specifically, the positivity piece really speaks to me.”
Holbrook’s father, a Pentecostal church pastor, would fellowship and serve communion at nursing homes after every Sunday service, and brought his sons along. “I remember it being a dark, cold…kinda smelly…lonely place. Frightening with screams,” said Holbrook who sang hymns from about age seven to about 13.
“I believe strongly in creating an environment that is odor free, [one] that is not dark and dingy, and where there is some joy and positivity in the environment,” he said. “And that starts at the top,” although he admitted to the difficulty of retaining a positive spirit on the daily.
All of Signature’s corporate employees out of Louisville, Kentucky are required to obtain a CNA license (nursing assistance), including the company’s president and CEO, who twice a year works in a nursing home, side-by-side and all scrubbed out with his facility employees, or “stakeholders” as they are called. “Mr. Steier believes strongly in servant leadership,” Holbrook said.
Everyone is on equal footing at Signature, a company that also preaches the merits of an all-inclusive diverse workforce. The Fort Wayne Signature has, through sheer coincidence, hired a large African-American staff. About 50% of their staff are African-American; their African-American clients total just under 25%.
“We just want people with the right heart,” Holbrook said. “That’s what it comes down to, if you [have it], I want you to work for me. Because those are the kind of people who I can make a difference with our clientele.”
New to the staff is onsite chaplain, Carolyn Sherrill, who has had extensive experience with local hospitals and hospices during her chaplain training (over 26 years in ministry, six years as a chaplain). It was her “unique positivity” that drove Holbrook to hire her.
Number 7 kid out of 15(!), she comes from a musical family; her brother, the late Kenny Flye famously performed in places like Detroit.In addition to her usual chaplain duties, Sherrill has instituted a philosophy that services Signature’s employees with the same love and attention that it reserves for its clients.
“In health care, we often focus on those whose health is bad, the customer. But sometimes we forget about each other in healthcare or ourselves,” Holbrook said.
Sherrill cited Signature’s compassion fund as another indicator of the company’s thoughtfulness. The national fund is accumulated from volunteer donations by Signature employees for emergency use only.
Looking to extend their outreach beyond the facility, it was Sherrill who suggested that Holbrook check out the Urban League as a potential community partner. Preliminary discussions have begun on a collaboration that would allow Signature to guide and instruct would-be nurses, like how, in a way, the Urban League’s BUILD program works.
Holbrook was impressed with the difference being made by Urban League’s learning center filled with children doing homework at computers.
“The bottom line is, I think, on all of us to try to do something in our world to be a positive influence on others,” Holbrook said.