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“I hadn’t called in sick since 1993.”

I hadn’t called in sick since 1993
By Jeffrey Leggett

United States

My name is Jeffrey Leggett. I am the housekeeping supervisor at a nursing home. I’ve worked here for 31 years. 

I am still here because of the friendships I have made throughout the years with the residents and the staff. Watching the loyalty that comes with this profession is outstanding. It makes it worth getting out of bed every morning.  

I like people to treat me the way I treat them. That's how I look at life. That's how I was raised. I'm built to work in an environment like this from growing up in a solid family of seven. I respected my parents, my five sisters. It’s the respect that I got all my life. So, this is for me. That's why I've been here so long. 

The biggest challenge I faced during the pandemic was recovering from COVID. That was hard. It was eye-opening to me. I hadn’t called [in sick] since 1993. I hated calling in. I tried to get out of bed, and I couldn't. I felt bad that I couldn't be here with everybody else, but I had no choice. It hurt me a lot not to be here especially because in April [2020] COVID was really going through our building. And not to be here and support them was very hard.  

Once I got back, it was hard to see the residents in their rooms missing their families. You try to go in and comfort them and to be their family. It was a challenge to come to work every day and see that loneliness, that isolation. 

Going through COVID, I’ve learned not to take life for granted. I was just breezing along. I’m never sick. Never. Then, all of a sudden, COVID comes to town. I’ve felt vulnerable since COVID’s been in our building and in our society. I’ve had sleepless nights at times thinking about it and asking myself questions. So many people who have died from it, why am I still alive? How did I survive? Why am I still here? I have thought about that a lot for the last 15 months. 

What I’m proudest of is the people I work with, especially in my department. When COVID started, I saw the turnover in other departments. My department did not turn over. We are still intact to this day since COVID. It makes me want to come to work and work with these people. Nobody gave up in housekeeping, and we won't give up on our residents. Never. 

As a supervisor, I like to lead by example. [My department] sees me out there with residents, spending time with them, chatting with them, getting to know them. They want to do the same thing. I respect my crew. I really do. It's amazing to work with these people. 

Sometimes people ask you on the outside what do you do, and people are ashamed to say, “Oh, I work in housekeeping.” Not me. Sometimes people say things like, “Oh, how could you do that?” And I’m proud to tell people I’m a housekeeping supervisor in a nursing home. I think we are the backbone to any facility, especially in a nursing home. 

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