Advisory Board Profile- Kristen Wheeler, Director of Private Duty Services, Home Care Association of Florida

The Private Duty Home Care Advisory Board is made of some of the most experienced and talented leaders in the private duty community. Each of our Advisory board members is committed to the mission and vision of the organization and ensuring our members are well represented and receive the tools, support, and resources you need to provide the highest quality and caliber care and services to your clients and families.

In our reoccurring Advisory Board Profile series we invite you to get to know our advisory board members better through a short Q&A interview, and learn more about why they choose to dedicate their professional lives to the private duty home care community.

Last week, we introduced you to Stephanie Johnston from Transcend Strategy Group. This week, we have the pleasure of sharing a little more with you about Kristen Wheeler, Director of Private Duty Services at the Home Care Association of Florida.

Kristen, tell me about how you would describe what you do to someone you just met.

This is funny because whenever I talk to someone not in home care about what I do, their eyes seem to glaze over – my husband always says I need to work on my elevator speech. Generally, I say that I work for the Home Care Association of Florida (HCAF), which is the premier trade association representing the home health care industry in the state of Florida. 

Tell me about how you ended up working in private duty home care. How did your professional journey bring you to where you are today?

I ended up working in private duty home care largely by accident. My background from way back was in non-profit fundraising development and event planning in Detroit. When we moved to Key West, I was approached by a home health and hospice agency there, interested in starting a private duty program and, although I didn’t know anything about home care, they felt like I was the perfect person for the position. I joined the team and built and ran their program for about seven years, eventually splitting off and opening an independent licensed-only home health agency with a business partner. When HCAF recognized the need for a specific membership designed for the private duty industry, I welcomed the change and new challenge. 

Why choose private duty/personal care services? Why not something else, or some other part of home care?

I think private duty is absolutely positioned to be the premier wave of the future when it comes to health care, particularly in light of the pandemic. Fewer and fewer people are going to choose facility-based care in favor of aging at home and the best way to do that is by having private duty care. It’s a very exciting time to be part of the private duty world.

What do you find to be the most rewarding about your job?

Helping others just starting out in private duty, whether that be by assisting in the understanding of state regulation or assisting with the entire licensure application process.

Conversely, what do you find to be most challenging?

Currently, I’d say that it is the lack of travel and personal connection. Much of what the association does involves interaction with providers. Not being able to get out and meet with folks is very challenging. Thankfully, virtual options are available but not everyone is comfortable with that yet. 

What Is your favorite memory working in private duty home care? Why?

My favorite memories are always the clients that started out very reluctant to accept services. Their son or daughter was insisting on them “getting help” when they didn’t feel ready or like they needed it. Fast forward a week or two into the start of services and that same client absolutely loves her aide or caregiver and can’t believe she’d ever lived without her! I’m certain that all PD people have stories like this – it’s the reason being in the industry is so rewarding.

What is the one thing that keeps you up at night professionally?

Right now? Just COVID and what this pandemic is going to do to the industry and to those that need care. My goal is to always be there to help our members stay compliant. That gets harder to do when regulations seem to change daily. 

What made you first get involved with Private Duty Home Care at NAHC?

When I still had my agency, we joined NAHC right away, initially because we wanted to attend the PD conference that year! We recognized immediately, though, that all of the benefits of membership, from education to advocacy, were great, and knew that we’d made the right decision to join. 

What would you say to someone considering becoming a Private Duty Home Care at NAHC member?

NAHC has the best interest of each and every home care provider at heart, from tiny independent agencies all the way up to huge national providers. They are OUR voice at the national level and you should absolutely be a part of that voice (and, if you’re a Florida provider, you should definitely join HCAF, too 😊)

What would you say to someone who was considering a career in private duty home care?

I would say that private duty is an enormously rewarding career but it’s not as simple as you might think! I talk to so many would-be agency owners that have the idea in their head that owning an agency is as simple as hanging a sign and hiring some caregivers and clients will be banging down the doors. There’s so much more to it than that; people need to understand that they’ll be looking at a lot of blood sweat and tears to be successful, just like in any business, especially for the first few years. It’s most definitely worth it, though!

On behalf of everyone at the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, we thank Kristen for her detailed and candid responses. We are honored to have her as a distinguished member of the PD Advisory Board and thank her for his dedication, commitment, and passion to the Private Duty home care community.