Celebrating Employee Dedication – Anita Flynn Stankus
(Interviewd by Christina Gaetano)
Anita Flynn Stankus is celebrating 26 years of service to Ocean Mental Health Services this month. I recently interviewed Anita about her experiences at OceanMHS. Although I was expecting a story about the changing face of an agency in 26 years, what I experienced was more personal, and more powerful.
- Let’s start with what you do here at OceanMHS?
Anita: I am an Administrative Assistant in the Manahawkin Outpatient Office. I supervise four administrative staff and oversee the administrative functions in the office. Let’s see, I make sure we have coverage in Medical Records and at the Reception Desk, I communicate our office needs to other departments, such as IT and Facilities, I work with billing and with the consumers on Fee Agreements, I do statistics and productivity reports. Oh, and I cover the reception desk. (Anita and I are attempting this interview at the reception desk because she is covering the desk while the receptionist, Amanda, is on her lunch break.)
- What has your experience been like, working for OceanMHS?
Anita: You know, I’ve been able to watch the clients grow up here. It has been such a nice feeling to see people come in as teenagers or young adults. They come to us at a time when they are struggling and they get help to overcome their problems. They adjust so well, grow up beautifully. And then they sometimes bring their children in for help.
(At this point a client walked in who needed a medication refill and a new appointment, a group was leaving and needed to be checked out, one of the Psychiatrists working came in to ask several questions, a client came in for an appointment and needed to complete paperwork for both the current appointment as well as consent forms from a past appointment, and an overcrowding issue in the parking lot required a staff person to be tracked down to move a car so a client could get their car out of the lot. All of this happened within 15-20 minutes. Anita handled all of this with a smile, laughing with clients, putting them at ease, handling multiple issues and yet making each person feel like they were the #1 priority.)
Anita: What was I saying?
- You were telling me about seeing kids growing up here.
Anita: Oh yes, when they come back with their children, they sometimes see some of the same issues and problems they were facing. But they bring their children in at a younger age. So they overcame their problems, but they also learned the value of what we do and they were able to bring their children for help earlier. It’s a great thing to see that.
- I just watched you juggle a group of problem and tasks and yet smile through everything. Isn’t all of that chaos difficult?
Anita: Really, I didn’t notice. It’s just what we do here. Something needs to be done and you just do it. And I am not the only one that works like that. We all do. We all work together in this office, we all support one another. Support staff, Therapists, Psychiatrists, everyone, we all help one another out. It’s more than a team. It’s camaraderie. It’s cooperation. It’s more.
- And you smile through it?
Anita: Yes. I always try to put myself in the patient’s shoes and think “how can I help them”. You have to be that way. You try to make everyone feel important because they are important. And if what they need is beyond me, I go to someone who can help.
The people that come here for help are great and they really need us. It’s so important to understand that. Some people come to us for depression or anxiety or family problems. Some people’s problems are more intense. When you are here day to day, and see someone come in, maybe someone who was recently discharged from a psychiatric hospital, they are dulled, almost in a non-functioning state. Someone drives them in. Someone helps them complete paperwork. The client doesn’t talk to us at the reception desk, doesn’t even make eye contact. It’s almost as if they don’t even recognize that we are here. Then, little by little, each appointment they have you see growth. You see recognition in their eyes, they say “Hello”, they are dropped off and manage paperwork on their own, then one day they are driving themselves to an appointment. I get to see that. I get to see how much we have helped, how much someone’s life has changed.
I have a really rewarding job. It is rewarding to be able to help someone who is, I don’t want to say less fortunate, that’s not true, it’s someone whose problems are different that my own. And helping them can sometimes mean just smiling or remembering their first name when the walk in the door. I get to experience so working at Ocean Mental Health and I have learned so much, I have made great friends and truly enjoy my job the team I work with.