Meet Angie Wigen: Company Historian, Culture Builder, and Inspirational Leader
Angie Wigen is a legend. She is the 2nd most tenured employee and the most tenured therapist in company history. She was here before the company was even called Blue Stone Therapy about 12 years ago.
I first met Angie on Friday, March 17, 2015 at my first leadership meeting. We met a room at the back of Hope Church in West Des Moines and there were maybe 20 attendees with everyone, including office staff. At that meeting, it was hard not to notice Angie Wigen as she worked the room, checking on how everyone was doing, sharing a laugh and a smile. I could see that everyone was attracted to her magnetic personality and witty sense humor.
Fast forward to our Rehab Director meeting in the fall of 2019... now I understand why everyone wanted to talk to Angie, she is witty and fun! We had been through 5 years of Rehab Director meetings together and were reminiscing on how much Blue Stone Therapy had grown over the years. At that meeting there were nearly 50 Rehab Directors and nearly 60 attendees. That's when she shared that she was one of the first employees at Blue Stone.
How often do you get to talk to the O.G. and learn about what the company was like and how it became what it is now? I had to interview Angie to learn about her leadership journey. Meet Angie Wigen, Rehab Director-
What's your leadership story?
I started as a COTA and after about a year, became the Rehab Director at two skilled nursing facilities. Over the years we have added more staff at the communities we serve and I am now the Rehab Director at Longhouse-Northshore .
I started as a therapist here before the company was even called Blue Stone Therapy Solutions. At that time I was working PRN with a company in the Hawkeye Care Centers of Iowa buildings and was asked to join this new company full-time as they were forming what would become Blue Stone Therapy. Initially I was scared to death because I had a great job at the hospital and was content in my duties. However, I also had an interest in helping this new therapy company get started in the area and to help mold it into the respectable company it is today. I took a risk with a brand-new company knowing that if we got great therapists and we all took ownership into this company it would really bloom - and it did!!
Our leadership team continued to guide us and we really focused on putting our residents first. We produced great outcomes as a team and other therapists that heard wonderful things about Blue Stone wanted to join us. We made it!
I’ve been a COTA for 33 years. I’ve worked in many different areas and realized that geriatrics is my favorite. There have been so many changes in therapy over the years that sometimes I feel like the Grandma sitting on her porch telling her children (the young therapists) all about how things have changed. Telling them how important it is that they always do what's right, to become advocates for their patients, and for therapy in general.
We have to embrace the changes that come our way. Medicare has a strange way of coming full-circle with changes. Just when everything seems to be moving along smoothly, things change and they go back to how Medicare used to be, such as PDPM and eliminating the RUG system. I remind the therapists as they complain of Medicare rulings periodically that it soon will change.
I also remind the OT's that initially when I started, we made our own adaptive equipment including positioning devices for wheelchairs. At that time, facilities would not purchase equipment so we needed to be able to sew and be extremely creative. If I only would have patented some of my creations…
One more good memory from way back when, I made my first trip to Des Moines for a meeting with the Blue Stone Therapy team: all the therapists and leadership team fit into one small conference room around an average-sized conference table. What a difference a few years makes and what a blessing to be where we are today!
How did you get your position at Blue Stone Therapy?
Blue Stone Therapy is great about developing strong leaders and allowed us to take part in a leadership training that helped me realize that I could be a Rehab Director even without any prior experience. It was a great program and I am thankful for the opportunity to participate in it.
What's your favorite part about specializing in geriatric rehabilitation?
Many years ago, I discovered that I really enjoy the pace of treating the geriatric population. I like building relationships, love providing compassionate care, and being an advocate for our residents.
How do you cultivate a positive culture with your team?
Some would say I spoil my therapists; I would say that I treat my therapists like they are a younger version of me. I work very hard to teach them to be leaders themselves, to become best therapist they can be, and to always do what's right! I want every therapist to succeed without needing their Rehab Director and really understand how they can be most successful.
What are your top 3 Blue Stone Therapy Core Values and why?
Commitment to Quality: Blue Stone Therapy is highly respected in the communities we serve and our patients know they are our top priority.
Embrace Change: I tell our therapists frequently that once you get comfortable things will change. Change is good in all areas and we don't want become stagnant.
Doing the Right thing: This is my personal motto and I cannot preach this enough, always do what's right.
Do you have a team success story you would like to share?
I have so many that I could share and I love thinking back to some of my favorites. In general, I love having someone return to us BECAUSE they had such a great experience with therapy during a prior stay. I also love working with new patients who have heard from others in our community about how awesome we are. These are the best successes!
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
We moved into a different house last July, I'm still unpacking. I love spending time working on the house and landscape along with spending time with my adorable grandson Baker, plus my husband and dogs.
What’s a fun fact about you many people don’t know?
I love Blue Stone Therapy so much that my daughter Brooke has joined the Blue Stone family and is an OT in NW Iowa. I also have another daughter Paige who is a special education teacher in Wisconsin.
Where’s your favorite place in the world?
My living room with a fire going and family with me.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
Rid aging therapists of all aches and pains that go with the job! JK.......... to be able to open up facilities for families to be able to hug their loved ones.
If you could tell anyone anything about Blue Stone Therapy, what would you share?
My life has changed with this company as they have given me the courage, knowledge, and power to become a better therapist and director. This company really cares for their employees and they listen. No job is perfect, but I'd say mine is pretty close.
About the Interviewer
Jay Pfalzgraf is the Vice President of Business Development at Blue Stone Therapy, the leading specialist in SNF contract therapy. He is passionate about helping senior living communities enhance lives through exceptional rehabilitation services.
About Blue Stone Therapy
Headquartered in Urbandale, Iowa, Blue Stone Therapy is the leading specialist in Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) therapy services. The company was founded in 2009 and provides specialized Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech-Language Pathology services to healthcare providers in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
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