Adapted from his July 18 installation remarks
I have known few greater honors than the opportunity to serve as the President of the Florida Health Care Association. I am sure there are some people asking who Alex Terentev is, where he came from, who he works for, how did he become FHCA President and what is he going to do in this position.
My journey started in the USSR…I went to medical school and my biggest accomplishment there was finding and somehow convincing Stella, my wife, to go out with me. A few months later, still teenagers, we got married, because sometimes in life, you know when the time is right.
Six years later when the Soviet Union collapsed and the future seemed uncertain, we decided to move to the United States in search of a better life for ourselves and our young son, Paul, and on April 5, 1995, a young couple with a three-year-old son, two suitcases and $120 in cash, barely speaking English, landed in Michigan. I began working in a small hospital as a phlebotomist, and this is where our American dream started. I was making $10 an hour and felt filthy rich.
Meanwhile, my wife Stella who did not have a work permit, was sitting at home. She found another way to contribute to our family. On April 5, 1996, our daughter Deanna was born. So here we are with two kids, living a happy life when all of a sudden, our world almost ended. I learned that my work visa was not going to be extended but giving up our American dream and going back was not an option. We realized our only opportunity to stay here legally was to become students and apply for student visas.
After years of working odd jobs like cutting grass and babysitting to pay for school, we both graduated from Lake Superior State University.
My American dream changed. I didn’t want to be a phlebotomist anymore. I spoke to my friend Jim Wagner, who ran the only nursing home in our small Michigan town. He suggested I pursue a career as a nursing home administrator and gave me some advice. Jim said, “Alex, you are here on a student visa and you have a very funny accent. Your only way to find a job is to apply all over the country, from border to border, from coast to coast, and somebody out there is going to be dumb enough to give you a chance.”
That is how we ended up in a Charles City, Iowa. I would challenge you to find it on a map. I found myself surrounded by corn fields running a 64-bed facility. You know you are in the middle of nowhere when the closest Walmart is 40 miles away. After three years of country living, my family voted to leave Iowa and head for the beach. As luck would have it, in 2003, I found a job with my current company, Gulf Coast Health Care, and we moved to Pensacola, Florida.
Years went by; as a family we moved from Pensacola to the Orlando area. I am still with the same company and the same wife, who went back to school and became a nurse practitioner. The children grew up, left home and went to school. My American dream changed again. I wanted to be the president of FHCA.
Now why am I sharing all these stories? No matter how low or difficult your situation is, hard work will always get you where you want to be. I grew up in a country that pushed us down, and many of us still managed to get up. Paying for school was difficult, especially as immigrants, but we worked through the tears and frustration because we knew what we were working for – the American dream.
I would also encourage you to network with everybody. Go out there and meet people from our industry; do not confine yourself to the walls of your own facility. The people I have met by chance ended up changing my life for the better. A random meeting in Europe with an American professor, Bill Castor, gave me an opportunity for a life in the United States. A random meeting with Jim Wagner helped me to become a nursing home administrator, and an email to Gulf Coast Health Care helped me land a job in Florida.
I work for a great company. Our current and former presidents believed in me and supported all my FHCA involvement. I am forever thankful to Jamey Richardson and Craig Robinson.
Now, that you know who I am, let me tell you about where I want to take all of you.
As your president, I want to focus on three areas that I believe are vital for our industry.
Legislative activities, lobbying and political involvement
For the past eight years, we have had a strong relationship with Florida’s Governor, the House and Senate, whose decisions affect our operations. This November, we’ll see a new Governor and new legislators elected to office, so it’s critical that we spend these next few months educating them about the work we do. A new payment system tied to quality is on the horizon. We need all of you to continue staying involved in FHCA’s legislative activities – coming to Lobby Wednesdays, hosting lawmakers in your facilities, meeting with them in the districts and supporting the FHC PAC is critically important. We have a great team in Tallahassee, but they can’t do it alone. I challenge each of you to find your voice and be part of the political process.
Improving the image of the nursing home industry
We are operating true rehab facilities, treating complicated clinical patients and sending them back home. We are not “homes for old people playing bingo” any more. Educating lawmakers about the care we provide is one step toward changing the image of our profession. We also need to be willing to share our positive stories, with our residents, our staff, our families and everyone in our lives. Social media has transformed the way people get their news today – like it or not we must engage on Facebook and Twitter to tell as many followers as we can that we are no longer the nursing homes of yesterday.
We have a workforce crisis. Today, we have more vacant positions available than unemployed people. While there is no silver bullet for how to fix the shortage of nurses and CNAs, we can certainly help our cause by telling stories about how important and rewarding it can be to work in our centers, to care for our residents and to be part of a passionate team of caregivers.
Continue to improve quality of care, outcomes and relationships with AHCA, CMS and other agencies
FHCA’s Long Term Care Survey Task Force has been an important part of strengthening the relationships we have with the Agency for Health Care Administration. FHCA is working hard to keep those lines of communication open with all the agencies that are providing oversight. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing – the best possible care for our residents. I plan to continue what (FHCA Immediate Past President) John Simmons started with this Task Force, and we will expand opportunities for members to participate and share ideas.
Being involved in FHCA for so many years, I have seen the transformation of this organization from what used to be an association without strength or a voice at the Capitol. Today, I see a very powerful and strong group of leaders. Today, we have the highest level of participation from owners, CEOs, presidents, corporate staff and clinical leaders. We celebrated 10 years of the Florida Leaders program [at Conference], and in January, we’ll begin another leadership training program for our nurse leaders. All of this is something to be proud of. There are opportunities for involvement at the district or committee level; there are meetings and educational events in which you can participate. This is what makes us strong. The FHCA leadership team with Emmett Reed leading the pack is the best in the country. But they need our help. I hope each of you will find a way to be involved and support our efforts.
It’s going to be a great year, and I’m excited for what we will accomplish together. Thank you for this opportunity to serve as your President.
Watch video of Alex Terentev’s 2018 installation speech below.