As a high school teenager, Amber Janeczko took a park-time secretary job at a nursing facility within walking distance from her home. The decision planted a seed that eventually grew into a decades-long career in healthcare, particularly working with seniors.
“I absolutely loved that job and building relationships with the residents. It was the first time that I thought I might have a special interest in pursuing a career in healthcare working with the elderly population,” Janeczko said.
Today, she is the executive director of Life Care Center of Valparaiso, one of the Region’s leading skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers that, under her leadership, has received repeated high ratings from accrediting organizations.
Janeczko’s story is a classic example of how perseverance can propel you to exactly where you want to be in leadership. She started at Life Care Center of Valparaiso as a secretary in 1993 and decided immediately that she wanted to learn, grow, and move ahead in the organization.
From there, she became business office manager for six years, and then entered Life Care Centers of America’s Administrator in Training program, a full-time paid management internship that prepares qualified candidates for licensure as a nursing home administrator through hands-on experience under the direction of a state-approved preceptor. She has been the executive director at Life Care Center of Valparaiso for more than 19 years.
Janeczko found it a tad uncomfortable to talk about herself, so she turned the spotlight on the team of nurses, caregivers, therapists, and support professionals at Life Care Center of Valparaiso. Together, with the residents they serve, they have debunked the traditional impression of a nursing home as a sleepy place with little activity. Anyone who walks into the facility will find lively conversation, laughter, and the office doors of leadership open all day long to serve residents, families, and visitors.
Their secret to creating a vibrant environment and workplace? Keeping it real.
“I think it is important to take our jobs seriously. At the same time, it is important to instill laughter and fun into what we do,” Janeczko said. “I have the philosophy that we are guests in the residents’ home. We owe it to the residents to be joyful regardless of the challenges we face. We are the joy to them, and that is what matters most.”
Janeczko said she feels fortunate to work with a team who always puts residents first.
“When you just try to do the right thing for residents, everything falls into place. We have staff who believe in the process and in quality care, and they make a world of difference here,” she said.
The skilled nursing and rehabilitation industry is one of the most highly-regulated industries in the nation, with volumes of laws and state and federal requirements governing the care they provide. In addition, residents and families hold their own expectations and high standards for care. Life Care Center of Valparaiso has consistently achieved favorable ratings from accrediting organizations, which Janeczko said is also a testament to the team.
“When you have faith in the ones you work with, it makes it that much easier,” she said about the sometimes-stressful job. “I wish I could name them all in this article because they are truly the backbone of the facility. Almost every manager in the facility started in another position and worked their way up, including me. I think that has helped us develop a genuine appreciation for what others do.”
Janeczko also is particularly proud of staff longevity at Life Care Center of Valparaiso, a rarity in an industry that typically sees high turnover rates in employees and leaders.
“Many of us have worked together for years. I have been with Life Care Center of Valparaiso for 26 years, and the management team alone has been here for a combined 302 years of service with Life Care Center of Valparaiso,” Janeczko said. “Our medical director, Dr. Surya Nallari, has been with our facility for over 25 years and comes into the facility at least a couple of times a week, if not more. We offer therapy six days a week and are committed to the Valparaiso community by being part of different social organizations as well. I believe we have some of the most caring and compassionate staff you’ll find in healthcare.”
Janeczko received a Bachelor of Science degree (magna cum laude) from Indiana Wesleyan University and said she would love to seek a master’s degree in the future. In 2018, she was awarded Life Care Centers of America’s Central Division Presidents Award for her professional skill and compassion as an executive director, and for her unique leadership style that others seek to emulate.
Janeczko said her family is her ultimate support system. She and her husband Jamie are proud parents of Alexis, 17, and Jace, 14, and her favorite hobby is to watch them play sports. Alexis is in softball and Jace plays basketball and baseball.
“I have to give a shout out to my family for their continued support,” she said. “I could not be successful without them!”
Life Care Center of Valparaiso focuses on inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation with 24-hour skilled nursing care, featuring state-of-the-art treatments such as closed pulse irrigation wound care, lymphedema therapy, and VitalStim® therapy. They welcome residents and family to tour the facility at 3405 N. Campbell St., Valparaiso. For more information visit http://lifecarecenterofvalparaiso.com/ or call 219-462-1023.