When one joins any new endeavor in its infant stages, one is well aware of the growing pains of progress. Having recently entered the post-acute provider world, the new short-term “transitional rehab center” model of care and the traditional “nursing home” are two different entities under the same umbrella of regulatory requirements.
As a short-term care provider, the economic and regulatory pressures, coupled with the desire to exceed consumer expectations, created a whole different look, feel, and feeling for a facility’s caregivers. This new model of post-acute care poses inherent challenges to a caregiver’s success.
A traditional long term care environment affords people the gift of time to bond with patients and their loved ones. In this new world, with over 100 admissions and discharges and an average length of stay of 19 days or less, care delivery occurs at a much different pace. From admission, caregivers are rushed to establish a level of functional trust and, simultaneously, grow a bond between professional and patient. Moment-by-moment caregiving has turned into second-by-second significance.
As an administrator, the million dollar question is, “How do you do this?” How does one craft a message and deliver a level of customer-service excellence that influences a person’s trust level, immediately? The answer to this dynamic equation lies in the foundation that a facility builds for its associate experience. A foundation is built on the values of trust and empathy. Creating a values-based environment provides caregivers with a much-needed, and wanted, decision-making compass.

Start From Day One

Human behavior and decision making are influenced at the core of a person’s belief system, or values. Wouldn’t it make sense, then, to share one’s beliefs with the team from the moment someone joins a professional family? On “day one” of the new employment experience, Santé of Mesa, Ariz., doesn’t review policies and procedures. The facility doesn’t delve into the drudgery of compliance. Santé doesn’t sit them in a room and play videos about HIPAA or hand washing. Rather, the facility stays at the human level and talks about behavior.
What influences and drives behavior? One’s thoughts, beliefs, and values determine the way that one behaves and are the most powerful tools that one has to meet the demands of any caregiving opportunity. If a values-driven foundation is the sounding board against which one bounces off one’s decisions, the result surely will be better decisions.
Santé’s employees are its most valuable asset. This priceless truth is emphasized on their first day of employment, where they are given an opportunity to be seen, heard, and felt. Extending trust to a group of new associates who are hardly known gives them a newfound sense of credibility in their profession. Having this kind of trust, however, doesn’t come without great responsibility.

Everyone Is Recognized

Santé’s associates are aware of their responsibility toward nurturing its values-based environment. The facility has a commitment to its co-workers, in which everyone lifts each other when times are hard. Finger-pointing, blaming, and backbiting do not support a values-based culture and, therefore, are not allowed. Santé does not recognize rank and title, as management intimately understands that everyone’s contributions are different—not more or less.
In the interdependent world of caregiving where the facility’s success is partly due to someone else’s performance, conflict management skills are priceless. Santé teaches its associates how to speak professionally and in a nonaccusatory way to the people with whom they are concerned. The facility does not teach, “Take it to their supervisor,” as one so often sees and hears. This, in itself, is one of the main points of contention in its hierarchical world of educational levels and titles. Teaching Santé’s team to behave like a team starts on day one with communication basics.

Mission Possible

Finally, Santé recognizes that its mission is difficult. The facility doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that a values-based environment is not an easy one to work within. Santé challenges its new associates to rise to the occasion! It empowers them through basic truths and deploys them to influence others in the community. All the while, management understands that Mesa’s foundation is what keeps its house firmly planted. Person by person, associate by associate, teammate by teammate, the facility’s foundation is fortified.
As a result of this approach, Santé’s team members are able to confidently and compassionately care for those who need it. They are valued, heard, respected, and, ultimately, empowered to deliver the highest quality of care possible. They are changing lives, one second at a time.
Ami Reynolds, chief executive officer of Santé of Mesa, Ariz., http://santecares.com/, is a certified and licensed nursing home administrator. She has been in Arizona skilled nursing since 1991 and holds a Master’s degree in business administration. Reynolds formerly was an adjunct faculty member at Ottawa University, teaching organizational theory and behavior. She can be reached at areynolds@santemesa.com and (480) 699-9624.