Janet SnipesJanet Snipes, LNHA, has worked at Holly Heights Nursing Center for over 45 years and is currently serving as an Executive Director Consultant. She was Chair of the Colorado Health Care Association for 10 years and has been on their Board of Directors for more than 20 years, currently serving as Immediate Past Chair. She served on the AHCA Board of Governors for 4 years and is currently serving as the Immediate past Co-Chair of the AHCA Quality Cabinet. She was appointed to the 2020 White House Coronavirus Commission on Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes and to the White House Conference on Aging. In 2018, under her direction Holly Heights received the AHCA Malcolm Baldrige Gold Quality Award, and in 2019, Snipes was awarded the AHCA National Champion of Quality Award.

Provider magazine: How did you become interested in the health care industry, specifically long-term care?

Janet Snipes: I became interested in long term care through my mother in 1976. She was an RN and was returning to her career after a long break. She chose to work at Holly Heights Nursing Center. She called one summer day and asked me to answer phones at the nursing home as the receptionist was out and the nurses were extremely busy. I absolutely loved the atmosphere, the staff, the residents, the families—I felt a connection. The trajectory of my life changed. My mother moved on to hospital work, but I got my NHA license in 1980 and my passion for quality began.

PM: You’ve dedicated your career to Holly Heights Care Center. What has changed in that time?

JS: Changes have been numerous: increased scrutiny, increased regulation and enforcement, and increased expectations of residents, families, and public partners. They expect and deserve higher quality of care and increased attention to quality of life.

Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better.” We have all learned to do better as evidence-based medicine brings us new initiatives that improve the quality of life and quality of care for our residents.
PM: What has stayed the same?

JS: My relationships with residents and staff have stayed the same. I genuinely enjoy the relationships I have built and find great joy in becoming a friend or confidant. It is so easy to bring happiness to our residents: a cup of hot coffee, a favorite pastry, just sitting down and spending time with them, learning about their lives. The ability to impact our staff in a positive way is also steady, creating a culture of respect and kindness. None of this has changed through the years. We are a long-stay Medicaid facility, and both our staff and residents are with us for many years. With that, we have such an opportunity to bond and develop these relationships that improve all of our lives.
PM: You have been devoted to driving quality improvements and reshaping federal policy to improve national quality outcomes. What tactics have been most successful at the state level and at the national level?

JS: I believe a large part of my success in driving quality outcomes and reshaping federal policy at both the state and national level is in becoming an early adopter of quality initiatives. I jump in feet first, and I learn from my own experience what worked and what was extremely challenging. Then, when I figure it out and taste success, I am ecstatic with the positive outcome achieved and I can’t stop talking about how we (our staff) made such a difference in the resident’s quality of life.

I speak from my heart and enjoy explaining the changes our facility made that resulted in a positive outcome for our residents. My enthusiasm is heartfelt and personal, and I am so inspired to do better. If one facility was able to make such a difference in a few lives, can you imagine the tremendous possibilities at a state and national level to improve hundreds of thousands of lives when we all collaborate to implement these quality improvements? Working together we have had success in a number of areas, such as anti-psychotics, antibiotic stewardship, and reducing or eliminating restraints. The list of improvements we have all made through the years is amazing!

PM: The COVID-19 pandemic is fading, and we are returning to a new normal. What changes from the pandemic will stick around for the long term?

JS: Unfortunately, I think the staffing shortages that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic will be with nursing homes for a long time. We lost more than 400,000 employees throughout the pandemic and we are struggling to recover. We need to look at staffing beyond ratios and develop a comprehensive approach to finding solutions. AHCA’s Cares Act is a platform to move us forward. Enhanced infection control standards for nursing homes will stay in place and improve over time. I believe that nursing homes will be prioritized by our federal partners for testing, PPE, etc. in the next pandemic. The total lockdown of family visits causing social isolation of our residents will most likely never occur again. As a nation, we learned of opportunities for improvement from this pandemic, and again, when we know better, we do better.

PM: You and Holly Heights have won quality awards. What do you tell other people and organizations when they begin a journey to improve quality?

JS: I tell everyone that my passion for quality shaped my life and my career. The journey is never-ending, and each step of the way is worth every effort. I’ve experienced success and failure, and I have learned more from each failure than I have from success. The Malcolm Baldrige Quality Awards are not easy to achieve, but the most rewarding part of the journey is improving lives of the residents and staff we serve. Making a positive impact on another person’s life is a joy that never goes away. My career is winding down, but it has been such a rewarding career. I am so happy that my mother called that summer in day in 1976.

PM: You have been involved with AHCA for many years. What is the most valuable part of your partnership with AHCA?

JS: There are so many valuable aspects of my partnership with AHCA that I can’t pick just one. The leadership that Mark Parkinson provides for our long term care community is amazing, and the Board of Governors is strategic in developing initiatives to provide solutions so those of us who are “boots on the ground” can continue improving our resident lives. One of the current strategic initiatives is AHCA’s Care for Our Seniors Act which provides a comprehensive set of solutions that will help us tackle the crisis we are in as a result of the pandemic. The staff I have worked with at AHCA provide tools and inspiration so I can enhance the lives of the residents and staff I serve. AHCA works with our federal partners to achieve common ground, resulting in needed changes to federal policy. I have been actively involved with AHCA for more than 20 years because I believe in their mission.

Hear more from Janet Snipes at the 2022 AHCA/NCAL Quality Summit, May 16-18 in Kissimmee, FL. For more in​formation and to register, click here.