Administrator at The Springs Rises Through the RanksMay 11, 2021
She jumped in “headfirst” seven years ago, and there’s been no looking back. In fact, she’s only looked up. Elizabeth (Beth) VanDerWal started working at The Springs Health and Rehab Center of Monarch Landing senior living community in Naperville before it first opened its doors. Since then, she has progressed through the ranks of the organization she loves, most recently becoming the Administrator overseeing operations.
VanDerWal, a resident of West Chicago, has a Bachelor of Science in both Nutrition and Psychology and a Master of Nutrition Science. She recalled that as a high school student, she dreamt of wearing a white coat and creating mood-enhancing foods and discovering the secret magical powers of blueberries. “During my rotation, while earning my master’s, I was at a long-term care setting where there was nothing wonderful about the dining program. Knowing what an important part of life that food is made me realize that I could make such a tremendous difference in senior living. I decided to accept a position as the Director of Dining Services at a nursing home in Elmhurst,” she said.
When VanDerWal first learned about The Springs, the new health and rehab center being built in Naperville, she was excited. “I heard about their household model and the small dining rooms, and I knew they were creating a program filled with life. I knew that’s where I had to be,” she recalled. She was hired before the construction was complete as the Dining Manager/Dietician for The Springs. “When I came on board, there were not yet any residents in the community. We were getting everything put together, including plans and policies. We were all so excited when the first residents moved in. It was a lot of work but definitely a labor of love. I loved every moment of It then, and I still do,” she said.
As a manager, VanDerWal has had the responsibility of helping to review policies and procedures for operations of The Springs. “I’m a rules girl. I love structure, knowing what I’m supposed to do and understanding regulations,” she said. “A couple of years ago, as we were going through the policies, I started thinking it would be helpful if I had a better overall understanding of the operations outside of dining services. It could only help the community. I set about making sure that I learned and understood everything correctly. Subsequently, I decided to sit for the nursing home administrator’s exam.” Although less than half of the people taking the exam in Illinois pass it the first time, she reported, “I was fortunate and I got through it. The rest is history.”
After she passed the exam, VanDerWal had conversations with Richard Nolden, who was the Administrator at the time, and Mark Trnka, the Executive Director of Monarch Landing. “They wondered where I saw myself moving forward; I hadn’t really considered that. I was happy in my role here. They were both so supportive and decided to develop an assistant administrator role for me. They told me that I had demonstrated a skill set that I’d not been fully utilizing. I was excited to accept the challenge. I took the role of the Assistant Administrator in January 2020.”
Starting the role at the beginning of COVID-19 placed VanDerWal with fellow leadership, navigating regulations, guidelines and best practices with the sole objective of protecting residents and staff. “We’ve also spent a lot of time communicating regularly with residents and staff. It’s been a team effort every step of the way. We’ve adapted to what we need to do, every minute of every day. I could not have chosen a better team with whom to go through the worst situation in healthcare that I’ve ever seen. Our directors were unflappable, and every person dove into the role they needed to, every single day. We all love this place and our residents and our staff. We’re not out of the woods yet, but the support and commitment across the board have kept us going even during the most difficult days. I couldn’t feel more blessed to be where I am,” she said.
In 2021, VanDerWal became the Administrator, as Nolden transitioned to Director of Strategic Initiatives and Projects. She is grateful to leadership for constantly recognizing and rewarding talent throughout the organization. “Growth and personal development are important. If someone has the desire to grow and learn, management helps people to follow their dreams. This can only continue to make healthcare better. We have many plans up our sleeves to continue making The Springs the best. Most importantly, we have the team and resources to do it.”
“I recognized Beth’s many talents when I met her two years ago. She is an excellent leader and continues to grow as a professional. We believe in promoting our very best team members and Beth is certainly at the top of that list. She is a tremendous asset and we are very fortunate that she has taken on this new challenge,” said Trnka.