Erickson takes charge at Salem Home

As he neared the end of his first week on the job, Kris Erickson said he?s thrilled to be the new administrator at Salem Home in Hillsboro.

?I?ve loved every minute of it,? he said. ?I enjoy a job where I get there and 5 o?clock hits before I know it, and I have to stay later because there so much to get done.?

Erickson, 37, succeeds Kelly Schlehuber, who resigned in mid-July. He was chosen by the Salem Home board from among the seven finalists who were interviewed. Around 30 people responded to the board?s invitation for applicants, according Wendell Dirks, board chair.

?Kris kept showing up at the top all the time,? Dirks said of the selection process. ?We liked his enthusiasm, and it seemed like he really wanted the job.

?The other thing about him was that everybody we talked to about him had nothing but good to say about him.?

Kansas native

Erickson was born in Newton but grew up in Oberlin in northwest Kansas. A school psychology major at Fort Hays State University, he worked for three years as a school psychologist in Wichita after graduation.

While there, he received some life-changing advice.

?A principal friend of mine told me to try longterm care because he had just transitioned out of education and into longterm care,? Erickson said. ?That was about 10 years ago, and I haven?t looked back since.?

For training in that field, he spent about six months working without pay at a nursing home under the tutelage of a licensed administrator.

?I went through my unemployment and most of my savings to get licensure,? he said.

After passing the state boards in August 2001, he accepted a job with a management agency and was assigned to a nursing home in Winfield that November.

Erickson took on subsequent assignments in Neodesha, Hutch?inson and then Wellsville, where he had six months to ?fix? a home the company was considering closing. He ended up being there for three years.

?We built a really cohesive team and were really pulling together an older facility and making something out of it?and then I decided to get married,? he said.

Erickson was introduced to wife Farah by the home?s maintenance man, who was her brother.

?We were actually all from the same hometown?she went to school four years behind me,? he said.

Today, the Ericksons live in Lindsborg with their 20-month-old son, Christian. Ironically, the maintenance man later married Erickson?s cousin, and the two households live only two houses apart.

Erickson said he was attracted to Salem as a non-profit facility that had a strong reputation in the industry. Those positives were only accentuated during the interview process, he said.

?The team here already has an excellent track record,? he said. ?I was very impressed with them when I came in for my interview. In my first week here, I?m more and more impressed.

?We have a lot of quality staff,? He added. ?They?re very professional and the residents receive excellent care. We have the highest nurse-staffing ratio I?ve seen anywhere in the state. I plan to maintain that.?

Learning the ropes

Erickson said he?s still learning about Salem, where it?s been and where it stands currently.

?My near-term goals are to review and revise the employee benefits to make sure the employees are taken care of,? he said. ?Happy employees make sure we have happy residents.?

And having happy residents is the ultimate objective, he added.

?My philosophy all along has been residents first,? Erickson said. ?The folks who live here are our actual employers. Without them we don?t have jobs. The best care we can provide them is what provides us with job security.

?It?s good to step into a position where they?ve been so well taking care of already. That?s one less thing to worry about.?

Dirks said he believes Erickson and Salem are well suited for each other.

?He?s been successful at every place he?s been as far a managing a nursing home,? Dirks said. ?He described his management style as ?managing by wandering.? He?s going to be very visible in that position here. He definitely knows what he?s doing.?

Erickson will commute from Lindsborg for the time being. Farah is the laboratory manager at the hospital in Lindsborg, and the couple have additional family living close by.

?That?s the only thing that?s keeping me from coming to Hillsboro, because I love this town after my first week here,? he said. ?There?s a lot of kind people here. It reminds me of my hometown.?

After a management career that has involved a lot of transitions, Erickson said he is ready to settle into his new role.

?I was honored to be chosen for this position,? he said. ?It?s a wonderful home, it?s reputation precedes it. It has a great team in place and I?look forward to being here for a long time.?

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