Of the 39 total applicants vying for Gold awards from the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) National Quality Awards program this year, only two received the highest honor.
Grand Islander Center, a Genesis HealthCare skilled nursing facility in Middletown, R.I., and Golden LivingCenter—Continental Manor, in Abbotsford, Wis., were the two long term care facilities met the stringent requirements to clench Gold awards.
Sculpted after the prestigious Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, the Quality Awards are organized into three categories—Bronze, Silver, and Gold. In order to become eligible to apply for a Silver award, a facility is required to have already received a Bronze award; similarly, facilities must have attained both Bronze and Silver awards in order to qualify for a Gold award.
The system emphasizes the importance of quality sustainability in long term care facilities, while also encouraging continual efforts to enrich residents’ lives.
Grand Islander Center (GIC) pinpoints its employees as its most valuable resource and treasured asset. GIC takes pride in employing educated, competent staff members. Staff satisfaction remains high, and employees report feeling appreciated and respected.
“I spend a lot of time with the new hires, telling them that they are our most valuable resource,” says Joan Woods, administrator at GIC. “We’re only as good as the level of service that we provide our residents.”
GIC retained 88 percent of its registered nurses last year.
High employee contentment levels are due at least in part to GIC having formulated models to help empower employees to participate in decision-making processes. Listening circles invite uninhibited communication between staff members.
“We listen to our employees through the satisfaction survey,” Woods says. “[In listening circles] one at a time, staff members talk—they’re not allowed to interrupt each other—and we listen to them.”
Teams Make A Difference
Similarly, six designated performance improvement teams comprised of staff members allow the opportunity for each individual to truly make a difference in the facility.
“The thing that is most fundamental to Grand Islander is how we have structured our performance improvement teams,” Woods says.
“The teams do two things: They work to establish the improvement objectives and complete audits every month.”
The performance improvement teams, first established 11 years ago, are concentrated in the areas of Business, Clinical, Staff, Customer, Culture Change, and Safety.
Woods believes that GIC has greatly benefited from the Quality Awards program.
“If you focus and use this process, you’re going to have a better bottom line,” she says of the program. “It nets great results.”
Meeting Community Needs
The second 2012 Gold recipient, Golden LivingCenter—Continental Manor (GLCM), cites collaboration with staff, residents, and community members as the best strategy to improve quality care; it partners with its stakeholders in myriad ways.
“Market research was wonderful in leading us to meet our community’s needs,” says Trudy Erickson, GLCM executive director.
“There were no facilities that had a specific Alzheimer’s unit. When we identified that need in the community, the unit filled rapidly because of our specific programming.”
Ed McMahon, PhD, considered by many to be a “founding father” in the design and development of specialized Alzheimer’s units in long term care facilities, is also national director of Alzheimer’s Care/Quality of Life at GLCM.
“The Continental Manor staff know how to turn data into knowledge and manage that knowledge to improve the lives of their patients and residents,” says McMahon.
“You know the people there care, they have the passion for taking care of others. It is palpable when you walk through the door—it’s a different feel, a different look. We also have very sophisticated IT programs.”
The Journey Continues
Erickson and McMahon confirm that the Quality Awards program had a major positive influence in the Continental Manor facility.
The three levels in the Quality Awards “keep the quality focus right in front of us,” says Erickson. “We received the Bronze award in 2000 and Silver in 2005. It has been an ongoing journey, and we’re always looking to improve.”
McMahon agrees. “They never took their eyes off the prize, and they never got discouraged. It takes that long-term commitment to succeed.”
Though they have already achieved the ultimate award, GLCM continues to look to the future.
“We continue to learn every day, it’s a journey that’s never ending,” says Erickson.
“We’ll continue to use our tools and gather data, identify resident changes, and continue to use those tools so that we don’t have a decline,” Erickson says.