It takes a person truly dedicated to Maine Veterans’ Homes to wear all the hats that Rea Caldwell, staff development coordinator at Maine Veterans’ Homes - Caribou, does. New hire orientation, annual compliance training, infection prevention and safety are all part of the job for Caldwell at the MVH - Caribou home.
“I can’t even begin to name all the things I do in a day,” said Caldwell, who’s been in the position for a little over five years. “But that’s what I like about my job - it’s different every day.”
Caldwell is no stranger to the military and veterans. She grew up in Limestone, just a few miles from Caribou and home to Loring Air Force Base from 1950 to its closure in the early ’90s. In addition, Caldwell’s father served during World War II and in the Korean War, while her brother served for 10 years in the Air Force.
“I’ve always had that connection to the military,” she said.
MVH’s Mission and Orientation Process
A big part of Caldwell’s job is new hire orientation, which means she’s often the first person new MVH employees meet.
Whether they’re full-time staff or a volunteer, everyone takes part in an orientation that helps them understand MVH’s mission: Caring for those who served.
“I love it because I get to tell them about MVH and our mission and core values. I think that’s what really sets us apart - everybody in the building, no matter what role they’re in, upholds those core values,” Caldwell said.
To help new staff members better understand MVH, orientation typically includes three days in the classroom, followed by meeting with a few of the department heads. Finally, new employees transition out to the area where they’ll be working to observe and begin their job.
Special Memories at MVH
Although Caldwell is busy with many different tasks at MVH, she never loses sight of the most important people there: the veterans.
“I’ve had a lot of special residents here. Even though my role is not always direct care, you still see them in the hall and greet them, that kind of stuff,” she said.
Her favorite resident-related memory came recently, as she helped nominate one of the residents for an MHCA Remember ME lifetime achievement award.
The award is made possible through the Maine Health Care Association and, according to their website, “features the black and white photographs, accompanied by brief biographies, of pioneering, innovative and interesting residents living in Maine’s long term care facilities.”
For Caldwell, the most rewarding part of the process was getting to know more about the nominated resident and his life experiences.
“Through interviews with this resident and his family and as I learned more about his service and experiences, I developed a greater appreciation for not only him but for all of our veterans. They served selflessly,” said Caldwell.
Another moment that Caldwell says speaks deeply to MVH’s veteran focus is what happens when a resident passes away. As a team comes to bring the resident out, any available staff members gather to form a procession in honor of the resident and the sacrifices they have made.
“We’ve had several times where it’s very touching to staff, and the family greatly appreciates that little ceremony we do at the end of a resident’s life. I think those moments touch me deeply,” said Caldwell. “It’s an honor.”
Learn More About Maine Veterans’ Homes
Maine Veterans’ Homes is a nonprofit and independent community of six homes throughout Maine. We are proud to serve veterans, spouses and Gold Star parents and to provide the respect and care they deserve.
Are you or a loved one interested in care at Maine Veterans’ Homes? Download your free copy of our eligibility and benefits packet to learn more about us and how you can apply.