John Lennon once said “How can I go forward if I don’t know which way I am facing?”. This is a profound thought on many levels. The activity profession is a fast paced profession. Once we have one activity planned, we are quickly on to the next. It is easy to lose our direction, let alone to be mindful of which way we are facing. A solution would be to have clearly defined professional goals to keep our department focused and on the right path. If we do not define our own path, we may end up where someone else feels we belong. I would rather drive my own destiny, personally and professionally.

Many communities and corporations have facility wide vision, mission and philosophy statements which are often displayed in the lobby or elevators. These statements communicate to others the intent and values of the organization. Does your activity/life enrichment departments have their own statements; statements which individualize these visionary philosophies to our activity specific services? If so, are you using them to their best advantage? It is good practice for your department to have these guiding lights or statements, to assist departmental staff in remaining focused on what is important. Having department specific statements can be used in initial orientation of staff, reminders during monthly staff meetings and communicating to others the value of our service.

What is a vision, mission or philosophy statement? Are they one and the same or distinct statements? They are three different statements with various characteristics, defining different aspects of a similar message.

Vision Statement: The Vision Statement projects to the future, defining a future state of the organization or department. Visionary thinking is difficult to master as it is seeing things as they could be, not as the currently are. Visionary thinking is “out of the box” thinking and some people may call the vision statement unrealistic or unattainable. Belva Davis once said “Don’t be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality. If you can dream it, you can make it so.” Or, we are reminded by the movie “Field of Dreams” where the common theme was “If you build it, they will come.”

Mission Statement: As opposed to the Vision Statement which projects forward and defines a future state of the organization, the Mission Statement defines why the organization exists. Each health care professional should be made aware of the organization’s mission when they apply for their paid position. When they accept the job, technically they are choosing to accept the mission or purpose of the organization.

Philosophy Statement: Many people equate philosophy with deep thoughts and big words. The word philosophy is a combination of two Greek words: philo (love) and sophia (wisdom) which combines into “love of wisdom”. Establishing a work or personal philosophy could be viewed as a “quest for truth”. Departmental Philosophy Statements often include beliefs and standards associated with the service, as well as values and principles supporting the purpose of the service.

If you have your Vision/Mission/Philosophy statements printed and framed in your office, it will be a constant reminder to staff, families and anyone who visits the activity/recreation office, of what drives the department. If you do not have such statements, develop a plan to create them. Creating meaningful and relevant guiding statements requires a collaborative effort of professionals dedicated to the service. This is something that can be achieved at a corporate activity professional meeting or activity department meeting. Once created, sharing the guiding statement with departmental staff during their initial orientation will provide them with a concrete guide as to why they do what they do. If departmental staff understand the guiding statements and embody the meaning of the words in their day to day tasks, they will be able to make better therapeutic decisions regarding care and treatment of those served. If the staff believes in what they do, inevitably the elders in their care will receive the best care possible.

If you are looking for additional information as to how to create your departmental Vision, Mission and Philosophy Statements, check out the newest distance education program entitled “Management Mini-Lesson: Creating Vision, Mission and Philosophy Statements.”

This course is approved for two continuing education hours through NCCAP. It is available in our newly introduced E- Learning Library.