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Parra takes the helm at Good Sam PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 21 November 2017 13:49


• Leader & Times

Richard Parra was hired as the administrator of the Liberal Good Samaritan Society recently. He talked about his experience in health care and in the military, some of his goals for Good Sam and what he is thankful for this holiday season.

Q: Where are you from, and what’s your background in the medical business?

A: I was in retail management for about 15, 20 years. My wife, being a nurse, kept telling me over a period of time, “You need to get into the health field.”

In retail, especially when you’re in management, it’s kind of like the last man in is the first man out whenever there’s stores closing and departments closing. That was getting to be a habit over the last few years.

I decided there is no time like the present to be changing my career. In 2010, I decided to go to WATC, Wichita Area Technical College, to get my CNA license. I wanted to test the waters and see what it was all about. 

About 15 minutes into my clinic, I realized I should’ve been doing that 30 years ago. I loved every minute of it. Once I started doing that, I realized that’s exactly where I want to be.

I became a CNA. I did that for two years at Kansas Masonic Home. I didn’t want to stay a CNA all my life because I already had a decent bachelor’s background. 

I thought in order for me to have empowerment to do more for residents, I should go on to the next level. That was going to be a nurse, go on to RN school.

I had everything set up. I passed all the preliminary stuff. They even had a seat ready for me that year in 2010 right there at the Wichita college, only to find out that my boss at Kansas Masonic Home said, “I’ve heard that you’re going to RN school. Why? I think you’d make a better administrator. I’ve been watching you plus because of your management background, things that you’ve been doing, how you treat the residents. You should look into that.”

I’d gone to Wichita State to take a look at my transcripts. They looked at them and said, “You’ve got all the management courses you’ll ever need. You’re well set.”

I started the practicum. I worked every single position from CNA position to housekeeping, maintenance, the kitchen, dietary, every department that was in there, medical records. Once I got through with all of that, I started studying for my state exam, my federal exam, got state out of the way. A year later, I took my federal exam, got that out of the way. 

I started working as an administrator. My first position that I worked was right there at Kansas Masonic Home as a household coordinator.

I got laid off. I put my resume back in. I got a call from GSS – Good Sam. The regional manager, Mr. Fitzgerald, said, “I saw your resume online. Let’s talk about it. Next week, I’ll give you a call. We’ll go from there.”

Sure enough, he calls me on the phone and says, “I can make you an offer.” I started in Ellsworth as an interim administrator down there and was there only about a month because he really needed me in Minneapolis. 

Liberal opened up. He asked me if I’d be interested. My whole family lives in Arizona. I’ve got family in Mexico. That’s closer than way up there in Minneapolis. I can have them visit, or I can visit them that much more often.

He interviewed me for the position down here, and here I am.

Q: When did you start?

A: That was in August of 2016.

Q: What is your military background?

A: In 1967-68, I served in Vietnam. I’m a Vietnam veteran. I got an Army commendation out of that. I made sergeant.

They wanted me to reup. My father had passed away. He was only 39. At that time, I was 15 years old, and I had seven brothers and sisters, all younger than me. I needed to go back and help raise those kids.

Q: What do events like Veterans Day and the Wall of Honor mean for you?

A: During the Vietnam era, we weren’t very well liked. It took me probably 10, 15 years to even see a war movie. My kids, on the other hand, they tried for a long, long time to open me up a little bit to wear the baseball caps that has the emblems and that stuff on it and says “Vietnam Veteran.” I wouldn’t do it.

About three years ago, on my birthday, my daughters came up to me, had a little box, and it says, “Open it up.” I said “What is this?” They said, “Whatever it is, you’re going to use it.” It was a little baseball cap that had the little emblems and the Fourth Division, which was the division I was in and the little sergeant stripes and the Combat Infantry Badge.

It meant so much to them. I said, “Alright, I’ll do it.” When I started wearing it, it seemed like the attitude toward Vietnam veterans had changed a little bit. Now, when I go into a store, instead of getting dirty looks, it was “Thank you for your service.” That sparked me into wanting to do more for other service people. 

This is the beginning of that wall we’re going to be putting together, so that in time with my connections with the VA, I want to be able to bring more veterans. As we lose a resident and we have an opening, I’ll try to get some residents in. I think that’s one of the nicest things we can do for veterans, to acknowledge them.

Q: What’s some of your goals as administrator?

A: My goals have always been the same in every administrative position I’ve had, whether it’s Ellsworth, Minneapolis or here.

Number one, you’ve got to make sure you’re all on the same page. I want people to realize that as an administrator, I’m not here barking orders all day long. I want to be able to win their confidence, win their trust, let them know that whenever I give a directive, it’s a directive for all.

I’m not worried having to do anything that a housekeeper does or anybody else. I’m not above anybody. I’m not below anybody. The only difference between a housekeeper and myself is I have more responsibility.

If I see a spill in the dining room, I don’t call a housekeeper. I go get a mop. I lead by example. It took them a while to believe that. They’d never seen that before. They’d never run across an administrator that would actually lend a hand.

What I want to do for this particular place in Liberal is to follow the eight traits, which includes acceptance, joy, love, honesty, integrity, perseverance, compassion. We live those traits every single day, and I want to make sure that they carry that to all the residents. If you take care of your staff, your staff will take care of the residents. You don’t take care of your staff, it’s going to show up.

So far, I’ve been very, very fortunate. The team that I have is a very, very good team. They work together. They listen intently. I believe very much in protocol and believe in the chain of command.

I’m not here to think for you. You’re here to think for yourself, and in doing so, what will happen is we’ll take your idea and your solution. We’ll pick it apart, see how good it is. I’ll ask you questions on it based on my experience and education, and if we end up revamping or restructuring your whole thing, know that in the end it was still your idea to give credibility.

It starts at the top. It’s got to start with me. I’ve got to show that I’m here for them and the residents. I make every attempt that I can to ensure that I’m here for them.

Q: What are you most thankful for this holiday season?

A: I’m thankful that I’m still alive and I’ve got one more day to get it straight. Every time I wake up in the morning, I open up my eyes and say, “Well, I’m not in Heaven yet or anyone else.” That means the good Lord has given me another day to clean up my act and work a little bit harder to serve my residents and serve my staff.

I don’t want it to be just a family affair. I want it to include those like yourself that have contributed so much time and effort for our cause. There are people out there who have done so much for us. I want them to be part of the family also. We need the support of the community. That’s important.




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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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