“As a nurse, you’re always going to be giving your best.” That’s the uncompromising approach that Nichole Paul, Divisional Director of Health and Wellness at Senior Lifestyle, has taken throughout her entire nursing career. During her tenure as a staff nurse at Lake Barrington Woods, a Senior Lifestyle community in Illinois, she was always aware of how her attitude and attention affected her residents every day. “When you’re a caregiver, you’re often the first person a resident sees in the morning. You have to work from the heart; your smile can make or break their day,” said Nichole.
Now, in her current role overseeing clinical regulation and compliance for 29 communities, she takes that same attentive approach. “I’m the person my team turns to when they can’t find the solution themselves,” Nichole said. “I have to be approachable, supportive, and transparent. I let them know we’re all working toward the same goal.” She paused, then added with a laugh, “I also make sure they know there are no stupid questions. If there were, I would have already asked them all!”
It’s that natural warmth and easy laugh that first led Nichole to a career in nursing. Starting as a CNA, Nichole discovered a love of geriatrics and she went on to receive her RN. After working at a hospital, she decided to follow her passion and found herself on the way to an interview at Lake Barrington Woods. “I had gotten lost, there was a run in my stocking, and I walked in feeling defeated. One of the residents took one look at me, sensed my anxiety, and exclaimed that I was going to get the job!”
Paul took that spontaneous show of support as divine guidance, propelling her through the interview and into a role at Lake Barrington Woods. “I loved connecting with people every day, getting to know them as a person, not just a room number,” Nichole said. “I would always be fulfilled by interacting and caring for my residents, but I saw my ability to do more.” Eventually taking over the Director of Health and Wellness role during a time of transition, Nichole tapped that potential to build her team from the ground up. She infused her own kindhearted commitment into the community, resulting in an unmatched culture and 11 years of deficiency-free surveys.
She credits her success to the simple things. “Smiling in the hallways. Celebrating birthdays. Being upbeat, even when you’re having a bad day. I just made sure everyone – residents, visitors, and employees – felt like the community was truly their home,” Nichole said. “Passion drives success. When I die, no one will know my title, but I will be happy knowing I was able to impact residents’ lives for the better on a daily basis. That gives me pride.”
Twenty-two years into her career, Nichole’s passions have come full-circle, and most days you can find her teaching other Directors of Health and Wellness how to improve their own communities. “With both residents and employees, it’s not going to go well if we only try to connect when things go wrong. I let my team know I understand how it feels to be in their position and try to impress upon them they are not alone; I am here as a resource.”
Nichole has spent her nursing career building strong relationships that make daily interactions enjoyable – and the hard conversations a little easier. She emphasizes humanizing everyone and helping them connect on a basic level. “It’s important as caregivers to remind ourselves why we do, what we do. Appreciation can’t be bought. Happiness can’t be bought. But our actions can create those feelings every day for our residents here at Senior Lifestyle.”