An old expression has it that people only have “one chance to make a first impression.”

Indeed, truer words were never spoken, with specific regard to the health care field.

One of the first “rules” for any administrator of a skilled nursing care center is that the day of admission is when residents form their first and arguably lasting impressions.

It is for this reason that the first 48 hours are crucial in facilitating a sense of comfort and belonging for the resident (and for the family). Residents are at their most vulnerable during this period.

Although there may not be too much personal information about the resident at this early juncture, there are certain basic truths that may be extrapolated.

Regardless of whether they have just been discharged from an acute stay at a hospital, or arriving from home, they are typically physically and emotionally compromised. They want desperately to achieve their prior level of functioning, whether they will ultimately be returning to home, or transition to long term care at the facility.

They often arrive feeling scared and apprehensive, and their families aren’t faring much better.

What they collectively and desperately wish for is for someone to “make it better.”

This article is designed to highlight several “do’s and don’ts,” which should aid all caregivers in properly navigating the vicissitudes of this transitional period for the resident, so that the chance to make a positive first impression is not squandered.

Admission Day Do’s

  • Many nursing and rehabilitation facilities feature a concierge service. This valuable service is designed to help make resident feels comfortable in their new environment. Facilities should designate a “greeter” who will meet the new resident at the door upon their arrival.
  • New residents should be escorted to their new room in a dignified manner.
  • Inquire immediately whether there is anything the staff member could do to make the resident comfortable and welcome.
  • Be sure to offer refreshments and a good meal to both the resident and family.
  • Reassure and comfort the resident until they feel safe.
  • Try to remain with the resident (if possible) until the nurse arrives to do the initial assessment and evaluation.
  • After the assessment has been completed, return to the room frequently just to “check in.”
  • Make sure to have an admissions day kit available with practical items for the resident, such as padded socks and basic toiletries.

Admission Day Don’ts

  • Never leave the newly arrived resident alone for an extended period of time until sure that they have comfortably acclimated.
  • Don’t ever assume that the resident and their family will familiarize themselves with the protocol and other vital information without a staff member’s help and explanations.
  • Do not engage in “sensory overload” with the new resident. Instead, answer each question carefully and patiently.

Following Up

Of course, in addition to the initial admissions process, it is important to properly follow up with the new resident in the days ahead. It is always a good idea to return the very next day to inquire on their welfare. Have one of the facility ambassadors explain the various procedures, assessments, and care plans for the upcoming week, and then have them reach out to the family as well. Be sure to explain all of the various options for both short and long term care at the facility and alleviate any concerns the family may have.

First Impressions With Lasting Benefits

In the final analysis, the benefits of a positive experience on the day of admission cannot be overstated. Residents who are well treated on their first day will be much less likely to complain or speak negatively about the facility. They will essentially become a walking, talking testimonial when they return to the community, or if they choose to remain at the facility for long term care. Happy residents are the center’s greatest asset and referral source.

Judah Gutwein, LNHA, is director of corporate marketing and business development at Regency Post Acute, Rehab & Nursing Centers, Somerset, Dover, Hazlet, and Wayne, N.J. He can be reached at or (732) 873-2000.