At 24 years old, Prestonsburg native Hilary Slone is already achieving milestones in her career typically reserved for colleagues at least 10 years her senior. But the Morehead State graduate has an often elusive career ingredient: passion.
We asked her a few questions about her role as CEO of Bracken County Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Augusta, Ky., and how she’s achieved the title at a young age. Slone has a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management and now works to ensure that the roughly 32 residents and 50 staff members are in the best environment possible.
TLR: Where did your love for working in nursing homes begin?
HS: When I was a senior at Prestonsburg High School, I entered the mentoring program and it allowed me to leave school every day for two hours and volunteer at Riverview Health Care Center in the quality of life department. When I first got there I was totally intimidated. I thought, ‘How am I going to interact with these 80-some-year-old people?’ After a couple days I figured out it was a natural thing for me, and I could easily interact with the elders. Not a lot of people can do it.
TLR: What did you like about that interaction?
HS: I loved hearing about their past, and how much life is different for them compared to how I was living life. And their sense of humor! I learned that long-term care is not a place to wait until the end of life, but a new chapter in life to experience and be loved along the journey. When you enter this facility, you are entering the elder’s home, where we just so happen to work.
TLR: What types of things did you do with them?
HS: We ensure that elders are interacting with people and having fun on a daily basis. The stereotype that elders love to play Bingo rings very true; it’s their favorite game!
TLR: How did this steer the course of your life as you headed to college?
HS: I had a driven plan to one day return to long-term care. College was never easy for me, but I was determined to graduate and begin my journey in long-term care. Upon graduation, I entered the administrator-in-training program at Riverview and became a licensed nursing home administrator in February 2017. I worked as an assistant administrator until I heard about this job coming open. As CEO of a long-term care facility, I learn more about this industry every day. It’s not an easy field to work in, but if I can bring a single smile or laugh to an elder, it’s worth it.
I think there are certain career paths that every kid is expected to go toward; you’ve got nursing, law, medicine, and so mine was nursing. I thought that I would go into nursing, but it wasn’t until I started volunteering at the home that I knew that’s what I wanted to do, and I didn’t want to take the clinical path but the administrative and business path.
TLR: What are some of the challenges you face?
HS: In my mind we were going to have a waiting list of people coming in, but healthcare and long-term care are very expensive so we’re finding that a lot more people when they’re discharged from the hospital are discharging home to take the cheaper route. People have Medicare and Medicaid, but that only goes so far. It’s tough to keep revenue coming into the building, and staffing has been hard.
Also, long-term care is one of the most regulated industries in the U.S. My goal is always to transform negative energy into positive energy. A stressful industry can create a lot of negativity in a building, so I always want to ensure that staff and elders know they are cared for.
TLR: What are your long-term goals?
HS: I want to make sure I am leaving the world in a better place than it was. I realize that the world is so much bigger than myself, and I want to benefit the lives of others. I don’t want to live my life seeking the American dream, I want to live my life giving love and kindness to others. I think it’s so important to focus on things that are bigger than ourselves. If you go into a career simply focused on making money then you’re going to burn out quickly.
TLR: What’s next for you down the road?
HS: I’m 24 and I’m already over my own building, so I feel like I’ve just been trying to keep my head above water and figure out what I’m doing. Eventually I’ll look at transferring to a bigger facility and continue to grow.