We’re proud to introduce Carmen Villanueva, a Skilled Nursing Facility Recovery Support Navigator with Spectrum Health Systems.
A Worcester resident, Carmen worked as a personal care assistant for years, visiting clients, mostly seniors, in their homes to administer care. Personal care assistants play an important role in healthcare, but work schedules can be inconsistent for those in the field. As a single mother of three, Carmen sought something with more stability, and when a friend, who was a Spectrum team member in accounting, recommended that Carmen apply for an open position, she took the opportunity.
Initially applying for a front desk position at Spectrum, the team went with a candidate who had more direct experience, but then-interviewer Kim Canane enjoyed Carmen and valued her experience so much that she suggested another vacant position for Carmen. After accepting the medical file clerk position recommended by Kim, Carmen joined the Spectrum organization in 2019.
The move from her personal care work to medical file work was an interesting shift for Carmen, as she went from a hands-on role to a non-client-facing position. As a clerk, Carmen was responsible for ensuring return on investment and consent forms were signed correctly, scanning client paperwork into Spectrum’s online system, handling paperwork for those locations and facilities which still used non-digital files, filling out and processing client medical charts, and generally ensuring client charts followed them regardless of where they were receiving care. “It was a lot of paperwork,” said Carmen.
“Immediately, we saw Carmen’s amazing work ethic,” said Kim Canane, an Operations Manager for Spectrum’s Lincoln Street, Merrick Street, Milford, Millbury, and Pleasant Street locations. “She grew again in 2021 when she accepted the role of Recovery Support Navigator (RSN), working with Spectrum’s Skilled Nursing Facility grant.”
“Kim and my director [Heidi DiRoberto] just always pushed me to do more, do better,” said Carmen. “And I’ve just gone along with it!” While the transition back from medical file clerk work to the RSN position was an adjustment after some time away, it was ultimately a return to her earlier career and now she was equipped with a background in the paperwork that accompanied the new role. “I think what got me the most [with the transition to RSN] was working directly with the state. It was nerve-wracking – you don’t want to mess up or have the wrong information! That was really the only part of the transition that was a bit difficult.”
As an RSN, Carmen now visits clients, builds a rapport with them, and helps them with outside resources like applying for housing, helping clinicians assign them to substance use treatment centers for further care, helping get IDs by meeting them at the registry of motor vehicles and other crucial, stability-related items that ensure clients are discharged from skilled nursing and entering an environment that will enable them to continue with their recovery journey. Of her 40-hour work week, “I spend about 26-30 hours helping with these parts of clients’ lives. The majority of my clients need help with everything – many enter treatment with a place to live but must give up their lease while in treatment for multiple weeks or months or may not have had a place to live to begin with,” said Carmen. Many have no ID – driver’s license or social security number – so much of my time is spent supporting them through these additional processes. “My clients mostly want someone to talk to while they’re with us in skilled nursing.”
This past June, Carmen joined Spectrum’s President’s Club. At Spectrum, the President’s Club was created to acknowledge and celebrate our most exemplary employees. These individuals play a unique and important role in furthering our mission to provide a full continuum of care for our clients, exemplifying professionalism, integrity, and compassion in everything they do. They are nominated by their own co-workers for embracing our core values and performing their duties with an enthusiasm and dedication that motivates everyone around them to do the same.
And who nominated Carmen but her manager, Kim, and her director, Heidi. As Carmen put it, “yes, they’re behind everything!” Kim said of Carmen, “she goes above and beyond to help our community of patients needing any type of services.”
Before she got into her work as a personal care assistant, Carmen had always had an interest in being a doctor, but since becoming a mom at 18, she did not want to devote ten years of medical school and residency. Carmen graduated from Salter College in West Boylston with her medical assistant degree but put further school on hold due to family obligations.
Kim and Heidi’s belief in Carmen and her professional development didn’t stop at the President’s Club honor. “When the opportunity presented itself to further her education, we knew Carmen would be the best fit for a nursing career,” Kim said. Carmen’s enrollment in the ten-month program at Bay Path Practical Nursing Academy is funded by Spectrum through their educational program as an investment in one of their own employees in whom they see exceptional dedication. “It’s been seven weeks, and it’s been challenging,” said Carmen. Every week, Carmen works in her RSN position with Spectrum from 6:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., returns home to change and goes right to school, which runs from 3:45 to 10:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and until 11:00 p.m. on clinical days (Wednesdays and Thursdays). “All summer I was home, teaching my boyfriend how to cook! He takes care of the kids while I’m in school,” she said. Upon graduation, Carmen will have her Licensed Practical Nursing degree.
“I look forward to my future with Spectrum. I’ve grown a lot with them in the past three years, and I hope to grow some more.”
If you would like to join the Spectrum team, take a look at the job openings on our Careers page.