Homeland rehabilitation: Serious fun helps long-term and short-term residents achieve their goals


Director of Rehabilitation Liza Burkey

Recently, a resident who came to Homeland successfully rehabbed after a stroke and left for independent living. A couple of months later, flowers arrived for the rehab staff, with thanks from the grateful resident.

For Director of Rehabilitation Liza Burkey, taking time to build relationships is the key to success.

“It reminded me that we do make an impact on people’s lives,” said Liza. “You get to really know some of the residents and their families.”

Homeland provides exceptional rehabilitation services through a contract with Powerback Rehabilitation (formerly Genesis). Highly trained clinicians offer physical, occupational, and speech therapy, customizing services to help long-term and short-term residents achieve their highest quality of life.

Liza became an occupational therapist in 2013, working for a nursing home in her hometown of Millersburg. There, she fell in love with skilled care and found a post, through a Powerback contract, as rehab director in a local nursing home.

When the nursing home sold, she looked into working at one of Powerback’s other contracted sites. She had heard of Homeland from other therapists she had assigned there.

“You have to see the building,” they told her. “You have to see the staff.”

At her Homeland interview, Liza felt that the Homeland leadership team was “actually asking the right questions.” How would she contribute to care plans? How could therapy help in certain situations? It was a change from other settings where therapy was a service but not a collaborative one.

“Six years ago, I transitioned here, and I haven’t looked back,” Liza said today. “We feel like we are part of Homeland. They include us in all the different things they do for staff, which makes us feel wanted and like part of the team.”

For residents, that means seamless services. Liza continues providing OT while managing the physical, speech, and occupational therapists. She also attends Homeland’s daily clinical meetings, where department directors welcome her input and solutions. When nursing leadership wondered about any education they could provide staff on further minimizing falls, Liza prepared a one-page handout on safe practices.

The goal is helping the residents reach the goals they set for themselves.

And of course, residents just want to have fun.

“We’re going to pass balloons,” said Liza. “We’re going to play basketball. We’re going to play volleyball. A couple of therapists were doing an Easter egg hunt to work on residents’ mobility and balance.”

After all, she said, people still need to play.

“As adults, we forget to play, and it’s very therapeutic,” she said. “Yes, we have to be serious and reach goals and exercise and work hard, but if we can make it fun, we get better results.”

While some residents know about and seek out the benefits of rehab, others might be shy about speaking up, or perhaps they don’t recognize the slow creep of limitations that rehab can improve. To make sure that everyone is getting the rehabilitation services that help them perform to their highest abilities, Liza reviews resident records every three months.

Even a small improvement, such as being able to get into a wheelchair, helps residents feel good about themselves and their abilities.

“Being independent in one aspect of your day can really make a difference,” Liza said.

Through Powerback, the whole team has access to research, best practices, and continuing education to ensure that residents benefit from the latest rehab developments. The therapy room is fully stocked with weights, bands, therapy putty for hand exercises, patient-specific tools, and more.

“Our therapy room is small but mighty,” Liza said. “You’d be surprised at what we can fit in there.”

Outside of work, Liza stays busy with her husband and 2-year-old son. She enjoys yoga and Zumba and golfing with her husband when possible. They live in Millersburg, and Liza’s mom lives up the street, so they are back and forth to each other’s homes for dinner.

“Homeland is a great place to be,” Liza said. “Seeing the smiles on the residents’ faces and seeing the relationships and strong bonds my staff have created with them – it’s very rewarding.”

Homeland QA CNA Supervisor Sharria Floyd: A servant leader for residents and colleagues


Homeland QA CNA Supervisor Sharria Floyd

When Sharria Floyd moved to Harrisburg, she thought she would work for the same nursing home group where she had worked in Lancaster County, where she grew up.

Then she walked into Homeland for an interview. Immediately, she thought, “I’m going to work here.”

“Everyone I came across had a smile on their face,” she said. “I’m a pretty happy person, and that was refreshing. It made me feel welcome. It made me feel I could do the same in return.”

That was 18 years ago. Today, Sharria is the Quality Assurance CNA Supervisor for the Ellenberger Unit, which cares for those with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia or memory impairment. She is a trusted friend to residents, their families, and colleagues.

CNAs are the backbone of Homeland’s care teams, offering help with the daily tasks that assure quality of life. The QA CNA supervisors are team leaders upholding the exacting standards that keep residents safe, healthy, and living life to the fullest.

Sharria has been a CNA since age 17, inspired by visits to the nursing home where her mother worked as a CNA. She was hooked.

“I appreciated the wisdom I saw in the residents’ eyes,” she said. “I saw their youth and their wisdom all at the same time, and I’d wonder what their life was like. I figured there was something there to learn, and maybe I could make their days better.”

She moved to Harrisburg and joined Homeland at age 21, working in the Ellenberger Unit, where she remained. Serving residents with dementia has taught her to stay optimistic and agile because they teach her that things can change.

“Be prepared for whatever life throws at you,” she said. “I’ve learned how to adjust and still find joy and happiness in those difficult moments. If I can help the residents and their families find joy, I can do the same for myself and my children. I can look at life sunny side up.”

Around 2017, Homeland created QA CNA supervisor positions in all units. To Sharria, the fit was ideal. She continued her work with residents and families while upholding Homeland’s standards of excellence and acting as a liaison between her unit’s CNAs and leadership.

Her days are filled with training the CNAs and conducting audits to check adherence to the countless details that promise residents their dignity and safety – name labels inside their clothes, teeth brushed, eyeglasses in place, room in order, care plans followed.

Reflecting on the countless encounters that touched her, Sharria recalls one resident’s final moments of life. At her mother’s side, the resident’s daughter gratefully accepted Sharria’s offer to pray with them. Then Sharria brought them a Bible, and the daughter read scripture as her mother passed away.

“She wrote a letter thanking me for that,” Sharria said. “It’s those moments I don’t think about being acknowledged. I don’t look at it as a job. I don’t often get the time to step back and say, ‘That’s why I’m here.’”

Her own family of three “fantastic, awesome, full of energy” kids keeps her busy. Jacob, 17, is loving and kind, and a football player at Trinity High School. Lincoln, 10, is the outspoken one, with a “larger-than-life attitude.” Sharria once lost sight of him at a football game but later saw him on the TV news, cheering the team in a sea of high schoolers who took him in like a mascot. Nyla, 5, is the family dancer and singer.

“She prays for all of us,” Sharria said.

Sharria devotes her free time to Bible study and volunteering for Jesus is the Word Ministries and Harris AME Zion Church, passing out food and clothing to the homeless. At work, her faith has taught her “to continue to serve others with kindness.” That encompasses not just residents but coworkers – perhaps making a bed when she sees that someone hasn’t had a chance to get to it yet.

She spends a portion of every day encouraging her colleagues with compliments or sharing moments of prayer, which has earned her nicknames like “Preacher Girl” and “Peacemaker.” One coworker, seeing her in the hallway, called her a superstar.

Sharria remains humbled by her responsibilities. Many years after her instant connection, Homeland remains “the right place for me,” she said.

The work, too, remains her anchor, as she draws inspiration from residents.

“I loved the idea of being a CNA before I even got into it,” she said. “I feel like I need them, and they need me.”

Inaugural Class Graduates from Homeland’s Nurse Aide Training Program


CNA graduation at Homeland

Graduation days are special for graduates and everyone involved in their learning. Getting to the “big day” takes hard work and sacrifice by students and support from family members. Graduation also is a time for educators to celebrate the success of the learning process. Homeland Center recently held its first graduation day from its accredited Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program.

“We are very proud of our first class of graduates,” says Kathy Kuchwara, RN/Clinical Instructor. “CNAs are the backbone of our work.”

In 2019, Homeland began developing its own Nurse Aide training program to develop current talent at Homeland as well as recruit and train new employees interested in becoming CNAs. Prior to this, Homeland used a program provided by an outside entity. Homeland staff members Dawn Mason, Quality Assurance CNA Manager, and Nicol Brown, Chief HR and Corporate Compliance Officer, worked with a health care education consultant to create a program specifically designed to meet Homeland’s core principles and values, while meeting the accreditation guidelines established by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. This was a comprehensive and focused effort slowed only due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.

“Our program is stringent and demanding,” Kathy adds. “It takes focus and dedication to complete the course.”

Homeland offers two CNA training sessions. Kathy leads a three-week session during the day with extended hours. Raechelle Sanford, RN/Clinical Instructor leads a five-week evening class. The flexibility of sessions provides options for students who are working at the same time as they are pursuing this important education advancement.

Prior to starting the course, prospective students meet with Dawn Mason, QA CNA Mgr/Program Administrative Assistant, to assess their skill level, interest, and level of compassion they have for others. This is to ensure that not only the CNA profession is a good fit, but they have a heart and ability to mesh with Homeland’s organizational culture. The goal is to provide a pipeline of committed CNAs to share their time and talents with Homeland. Once accepted, students begin the course. Kathy and Raechelle offer a fast-paced and intense curriculum to mirror the pace of daily work and social interactions required of a CNA. The curriculum also includes Classroom and Clinical instruction, along with tests, mid-terms, a final exam, and a clinical skills assessment.

Upon successful completion, the students attend a graduation ceremony, complete with caps, gowns, and family attendance. Graduates must then schedule and pass a written exam and a skills exam administered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to obtain their official certification.

Homeland has completed two training sessions and has more planned to keep up with the high demand for CNAs. The pandemic coupled with the aging Baby Boomer generation have caused the need for CNAs to skyrocket.

For Kathy, the Nurse Aide Training Program is a true labor of love. She has worked for Homeland for more than 18 years and has deep admiration and love for the residents she has worked with during her tenure. While Kathy has technically retired from her career at Homeland, she continues to work part-time on the CNA program to help more students reach their career aspirations.

“Homeland is always in need of talented CNAs,” Kathy says. “Compassion is the key to success.”

Homeland Center, which occupies a full block in uptown Harrisburg, is a licensed not-for-profit Continuing Care Retirement Community offering exceptional personal care, skilled nursing care, memory care and short-term rehabilitation. Homeland consistently receives CMS’s highest recognition for quality care, staffing, and safety – ranking it among the best in the country.

For more information on the CNA training course, contact 717-221-7797.