Meet Devin Juel: Patient-Focused, Servant Leader Who Creates a Culture of Excellence While Enhancing Lives
Dubuque, IA, February 1, 2021 – Devin Juel isn't like most Rehab Directors. He's a Physical Therapy Assistant and Rehab Director with worldly experience inside and outside the therapy arena. He's lived in Iowa, New Jersey, Texas, and now he's back in the Hawkeye State.
He serves as Rehab Director in Eastern Iowa and works with our client, Hawkeye Care Center of Dubuque. I heard about Devin back in 2019 after he started with the company. His family hand-made and donated hundreds of blankets to seniors in the Dubuque area.
Over the last year, I've been watching Devin on LinkedIn share articles about rugby, discipline, the military, leadership, and coaching. I've heard really good things about Devin over the last year and wanted to see what he's about, so I interviewed him recently to learn more about what makes him so different. Meet Devin Juel, Rehab Director-
What's your leadership story?
I believe Jason Van Camp said it best when he wrote “it’s about becoming selfish about being selfless.” I want to be that kind of a servant leader and selflessness is foundational in that kind of leadership approach.
As a leader, I am selfish about putting the mission and my team first. My military background taught me mission, team, teammates, then self, and in that order. When we zero-in-on the mission as a team, we are being selfless and we can accomplish so much more than as individuals. Blue Stone’s mission is found in the purpose statement “Building Strength to Enhance lives.”
As the Rehab Director, if I can build strength in my team… their lives are enhanced. When their lives are enhanced professionally and personally, then my team is both empowered and enabled to do the same with their patients and the people we serve every day!
How did you get your position at Blue Stone Therapy?
I’m pretty sure I was the only choice or they were absolutely desperate… Seriously, I had a few years of leadership at the Rehab Director level in previous positions, and working with a company that values patient-first approaches is paramount to me.
The company I was working for was similar in many ways to BST and I enjoyed my position very much. Then it was sold to a national chain and I immediately knew that was not for me. The big chain was impersonal, bottom-line first, non-patient centered care approach is not for me; so, I started looking for the right position for me and my wife stumbled across a posting for this position with Blue Stone Therapy.
I have to admit I was absolutely impressed right away in my interviews with Blue Stone Therapy leadership and I knew their heart for the people we serve was something I wanted to be a part of.
What's your favorite part about specializing in geriatric rehabilitation?
I absolutely love this population and it goes back to my relationship with my grandparents and just how special they were to me. I loved their stories. I loved spending quality time with them (BST Commitment to Quality, giving quality time to our patients is truly valuable). Every single one of our patients has a story to tell.
One of the first things I discuss with new teams and team members in this setting is for them is to remember that every time they walk into a patient’s room, pass a patient in the hall, etc. is not one of these people ever dreamed they’d one day be where they are right now.
No one ever dreams of needing to be cared for. No one ever dreams of being in a nursing home. They were all 18 once and had their whole lives ahead of them. They had dreams of a career, maybe buying a new car, getting married, having a family, etc.. Too often the humanity of those we care for is lost. I’ve seen too many therapists and other healthcare providers forget this and they truly don’t see geriatrics as people.
I’ve worked with therapists whose clinical knowledge blows mine out of the water (a couple have written books), but I can get better results with my patients than they can because they put themselves, their egos, and their attitude of "do it my way" first instead of realizing that their patient is the focus.
I put the patient first. I give my patients respect and ownership of their therapy; I treat them as individuals and show them I care about them. They feel empowered and valued and it’s a win-win for both of us. Taking a few minutes to find a way to connect on an individual level can go so far! I used to read their charts (now I’ve dated myself) to find one thing we could connect on.
I look at pictures in their rooms when I am treating them and I see some amazing things and use them as discussion starters. I went into one patient’s room a few years ago and noticed this framed autographed picture of General MacArthur resting on a downed palm tree. I told my patient my Grandfather was in the Pacific theater as a Marine during WWII. We got talking and he says, “See that skinny runt just behind and to the left of the General?... That’s me!” He and I talked as we worked and his results began to dramatically improve. Make connections -- residents and their stories are amazing! I love it!
How do you cultivate a positive culture with your team?
Empowerment, respect, and my team knows I have their best interests at heart. I absolutely believe in empowering people to achieve. Paraphrasing Richard Branson: take care of your team and they’ll take care of those we serve. Therapy is all about empowering our patients to reach their goals and beyond.
Cultivating a team culture is empowering the team members with the opportunity to thrive, grow, be creative, and have the feeling of ownership in the progress towards the mission. Respecting people for who they are and the many different talents, perspectives, and ideas they each have creates an atmosphere of openness and positivity.
My team also knows I want them to succeed! I want them to know I have their back. I want them to be creative and seek opportunities for growth and development.
What are your top 3 Blue Stone Therapy Core Values and why?
Treat Others with Respect, Superior Customer Support, and the Commitment to Quality. All of the core values are excellent, don’t get me wrong. I like these three because these are how I approach my interactions with everyone first and foremost. Treat the custodian like the CEO approach.
Everyone has value and absolutely deserves to be respected as a human, an individual, and a member of the team, or as a patient or partner in our care giving. If we are giving respect, I can pretty much guarantee we are giving superior customer support. As the RD I believe everyone I contact while at work is in some way, shape, or form my customer and I am here to serve.
That starts with respect and carries into doing what I say I will do. Commitment to Quality is so important these days. The higher the quality of treatment, usually the better the result. Quality doesn’t always mean quantity, and with PDPM it’s important that the time with our patients is quality and that’s reflected in our Average Length of Stay, Return to Acute, Patient Satisfaction Surveys, and other KPI’s.
How does your team cultivate positive relationships with clients?
Two of the three Blue Stone Therapy brand promises are relationships that foster growth and patient-centered care. Having the patient first, human approach to care will do both of those things. I love just talking with residents, whether on caseload and not. There are a lot of positives that go with that. Then if the patient does become on caseload, there is already a bond. It also helps develop a rapport with facility staff, too.
The staff was having a challenging time with a resident who would yell and cry out a lot. One day I just pulled up a chair, sat next to her, and started talking with her. She was always yelling that she was missing the train. So, I asked about the train. Turns out as a little girl every summer she would take the train to her grandparent’s ranch in South Dakota. I also found out through our discussions she was married in my home town and she liked to dance so we started dancing together for about 2 minutes at a time. She’d calm down for hours… When she finally did end up on caseload, she and I had a great working rapport and got great results.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Pre-COVID-19 I loved to go to the gym, workout, and play rugby. Greatest sport ever! Nothing quite like seeing the faces of co-workers and the patients when I would come in with a black eye, broken nose or some other “discussion starter” injury. I just think it’s a great game, great exercise, and a great release.
I also love the outdoors and spending time camping, fishing, and hunting with my family. My sons are incredible kids and I love spending quality time with them. We have Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL Hockey) season tickets and are so grateful that they are still going on!
What’s a fun fact about you many people don’t know?
I have played with and petted a cheetah (she purred like a cat and licked my hand – her tongue was like sandpaper) and I have played with lion cubs (and have a scar on my right wrist from one of them) – oh and yes - I have the pictures to prove it.
Where’s your favorite place in the world?
It’s really a tossup between where ever my family is, Texas, and South Africa. I absolutely love South Africa. Such a beautiful country and people! I love to travel and see the world and new cultures and cannot wait for when this pandemic is done and we can see the world more. Ireland and Scotland are next on my list as I want to visit my McCoy/Mackay ancestral homes.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
If you could tell anyone anything about Blue Stone Therapy, what would you share?
I was attracted to the true “family” feel of Blue Stone Therapy and how as an organization I’ve seen them first hand as a people-first organization. I believe that Blue Stone Therapy is a great mix of old school people-first approach with mindfulness of driving organizational success and growth by developing relationships and partnerships.
Too many therapy organizations operate in silos in the facilities they work; I cannot bring myself to saying they are serving those facilities. They put their company first and the push for ever-increasing revenue as their motivator, not the patient first.
BST is a business, make no mistake, but what I see is an organization that truly has partnered with and is part of the complete holistic approach to care in the facilities and individuals that we serve. The level of care and the people first approach on the human side of the organization is what makes the business side effective.
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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