There are more than 18 million health care workers in the United States; 80% of them are women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While women make up the vast majority of home health care workers, they are a minority in the C-Suite. Only 40% of the industry’s key decision-makers are female.

 Homecare is a tough space to succeed in, and while org charts may not reflect it, this industry is loaded with strong, determined women doing incredibly meaningful work — they simply do not get the recognition they deserve!

Here at HHAeXchange, we would like to take one small step towards changing that. ‘Extraordinary Women in Homecare’ is a series of feature articles designed to celebrate women who bring strength, passion, and creativity to their roles in the home care industry.

For this edition, we spoke with Melissa Meegan of Summit Home Care, a licensed homecare services agency operating with the mission to improve the quality of life for individuals aging in place. As Executive Director of Summit’s New Jersey branch, Meegan focuses on business development and oversees the agency’s daily operations. Here, she tells us when she knew homecare was the career for her, how she manages to stay energized and upbeat in a challenging field of work, and why she cannot imagine doing anything else.

Did you always know that you wanted to work in the homecare space?

While I was unsure of the exact specialty I wanted to pursue in health care, I always knew I wanted to be in a role that would allow me the opportunity to have an impact and ultimately give back to others. 

My first opportunity in this industry was in an administrative role at a local hospital where I worked under the VP of Nursing. From there I transitioned into a management role in a long-term care facility. I quickly learned that this specialty presented a whole new set of challenges around regulations that I would quickly need to adapt to. I was fortunate enough to work closely with the CEO in a continuum of care setting who helped not only guide me, but accelerate my growth and desire to lead.

In 2016, I was afforded an opportunity to transition into homecare. At that point in my career, I was ready for a change and I saw this opportunity as an exciting new challenge that I wanted to take on. Over these past four years, I have held various positions and have taken on multiple responsibilities, which is where I finally realized my passion for health care is in the homecare field.

Why are you passionate about homecare?

Health care is always evolving and changing to adapt to today’s aging population. And this type of change, one that betters a society, is something I am honored to be involved in. We are seeing that more people are choosing to age in place because they do not want to leave the comfort they know. People are living longer, and homecare allows for people to stay in their own homes while remaining safe and comfortable as they age. I take great pride in being in a position that allows me to improve the quality of our patients’ lives. By providing them with caregivers in their homes, we keep them in a familiar setting and help them live out their lives the way they choose. 

What makes Summit Home Care unique?

What sets our agency apart from others is largely due to Susan Katz, owner and CEO of Summit Home Care. Susan is first and foremost a registered nurse. Her commitment to improving the quality of life for her clients was the principle that formed the foundation of Summit. She has created the mission and vision of Summit that we follow and allows us to be passionate about delivering an extraordinary experience for our patients, partners, employees, and community. Summit is a family-owned-and-operated homecare agency, and we treat everyone as family. If we would want the caregiver to work for our family member, we want them for you!

What is one of the things you’re proudest to have contributed to Summit?

I am currently the Executive Director for Summit Home Care running the New Jersey division. I am incredibly grateful to have been given this opportunity by another Extraordinary Woman in Homecare, Susan Katz. This experience in running a fast-paced organization has allowed me the opportunity to grow the NJ division. Summit NJ has a great team and a great work environment that I can say that I was part of creating. I encourage a culture of development where we can learn something new daily and my staff feel valued. I listen to what my staff have to say and what they need to overcome in their day-to-day responsibilities.

Outside of the team, client engagement is everything. When I was younger, I decided that I was going to be this trendy hair stylist and makeup artist that would tour the world. I enjoyed transforming people’s looks and seeing how it gave them confidence and uplifted their spirits. But as fun as it was, I knew it was not my long-term career goal, but I did know that I wanted to make a difference in someone’s life.

So, when I first started in homecare, I came across a few clients who were unable to get out of their homes to visit a salon and did not have anyone to come to them, so I decided to bring this service to them! This small deed brought such joy to my clients, and it helped me realize that homecare is truly where I belong. When the opportunity to continue this service presented itself at Summit, I jumped at it and have, on numerous occasions, visited my patients for a personalized spa day. While it’s not an official service of Summit, I am proud of the fact that it is my own personal contribution to the agency.

How do you manage to stay energized and upbeat in such a challenging field of work?

Coffee and a positive company culture! I am lucky enough to have a great team of dedicated staff, nurses, and caregivers as well as a very knowledgeable management team. I could not survive without the amazing office team who handles the daily operations that allow our homecare agency to function so smoothly.

When you know that the service you provide is so vital to the medically frail population, you are propelled to always apply your all. In homecare, you are the lifeline the families and patients rely on, so regardless of how challenging times get, you have a duty to your patients and families. 

If you did not work in the homecare space, what would you be doing as a career?

I think I would be in a field that is customer-based. I will say that I could not see myself in any career as rewarding as homecare. I could assume it would be in some aspect of health care. I am always looking or a new challenge and welcome change.

For as rewarding as a career in homecare can be, burnout, otherwise known as “compassion fatigue,” is common among caregivers. How do you keep your staff healthy, happy, and motivated?

We know that recognition is one of the main drivers for motivating top talent, and we feel that showing our appreciation is one of the best things that we can do on a management level to keep our caregivers happy.

We often provide recognition internally as well as externally via social media, in addition to great incentive programs for our caregivers that live the Summit values. We also offer continuous training to help them learn new techniques to better themselves in their position and grow professionally in the industry.

To ensure that our caregivers do not burn out, we insist that they take care of themselves. It is not selfish to treat yourself right. We have an open-door policy at Summit Home Care and urge our caregivers to let us know how they are feeling and if there is anything we can do to make things better.

Performance improvement is also high on my radar. We try hard to place every caregiver with a client they are well-suited for, and vice versa. We do not overwork our caregivers and ensure that they can maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Do you think that being a woman is an advantage or disadvantage in this industry?

Data shows that more than 60% of the health care industry’s workers are women. Today, we see more diversity in the workplace than we did 50 years ago. I do not feel that my gender has any effect on my drive to excel and succeed.

How do you manage to keep your agency ahead of the industry’s changing rules and regulations?

I am constantly looking for ways to better educate myself with the changing times. I attend trainings and conferences while working closely with our association and accreditation partners to stay up to date.

Health care is forever changing and there will always be new rules to comply with; if you do not get with the times, you will fall behind.

Do you believe technology has been key to the success of your agency? Why or why not?

I believe that harnessing technology is key for any successful business. Technology has allowed us to increase productivity and efficiency in our daily operations. We can communicate in real-time with staff, clients, families, and providers. HHAeXchange has created a platform that houses so many of the different components that we need to use daily to operate successfully.

What qualities do you believe have been most responsible for your success?

I would say integrity and self-reliance, because they have allowed me to stay true to myself and my career. They say honesty is the best policy, and I have made a choice to follow this in my career and personal life. I feel that being accountable for what you deliver and taking pride in yourself is the greatest way to succeed. I take pride in giving back to the community that I serve in my career by volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association as a support group facilitator, and just recently became part of the Pajama Project. These are two great causes that I am proud to be a part of.