Julianne Williams, chief executive officer and cofounder of Dycora Transitional Health & Living in Fresno, Calif., knew since childhood that she wanted to be part of the skilled nursing profession, in part to correct the flaws she saw in how a close family member received care a long time ago.

“My great grandmother [Serma Nahigian] was a survivor of the Armenian genocide and was placed in a facility. After visiting her there for years and seeing the very disappointing care she received, it led me to
want to work in skilled nursing with elderly patients,” William tells Provider.

Her trek to fulfilling her goal started in 1990 when Williams landed a job as a mental health worker and nurse assistant focused in the geriatrics unit of a treatment center. From that humble start, she worked her way up the chain of administrative jobs with the Beverly and Golden Living organization to eventually become president of the entire group before starting Dycora with a business partner two years ago.

She has also been active at the state and national level in advocating for the profession, having a longtime role in the California Association of Health Facilities and currently as a board member of the American Health Care Association.

A Company Built on Quality

Williams has been able to take lessons learned from her tenure at Golden Living and apply them to Dycora (comprised of 26 skilled nursing and one assisted living center). She is building a culture at Dycora that strives to provide exceptional care to patients and places the value of service to others at the top of all they do.

Split into two states—19 of the centers are in California and eight are in Wisconsin—Williams says the company philosophy is steeped in knowing “we have really one of the biggest responsibilities, which is to take care of elderly, infirmed, and vulnerable people.”

This means everything starts with quality in mind. “When you do a great job, your financial performance will follow. We do have a mission and vision for our company,” she says. “We want to be excellent, we want exceptional experiences, we want to be innovative, doing different things to create a brand that makes the company forward thinking, and we want to be an inspiration to other people, and clearly respect people.”

Some of the Best Are the Simplest

To make these goals a reality, Dycora implements new technology for the benefit of the residents and for staff. Williams says an example is that one of her centers is rolling out the use of a product that monitors vital signs every three seconds.

“So, we are able to identify issues with the residents’ conditions faster than if we were checking every 15 minutes,” she says. “We are more equipped this way to understand what the resident may be experiencing.”

On the operations side, Dycora has deployed a payroll system where workers can clock in from a smart phone, alleviating the ritual of people standing in line to get in or out of the center as they clock in or out.
 Dycora’s innovations are helping it maintain and grow occupancy levels at a time the long term and post-acute care profession as a whole is being challenged like never before to keep beds occupied. Williams says one thing her company does to stay ahead is to work very hard on hospital referral relationships. “We try to find ways to be as much of a partner to a health system as we can by looking at programs we can build together,” she says.

This partnering can take many forms, but usually revolves around structured meetings with hospitals and home health entities to bring about successful outcomes through coordinated care for residents, thus limiting rehospitalizations as much as possible.

“We have grown occupancy over the last year and are very proud of our leaders for that. I think we have been able to do that because we want to be very clinically innovative. We have given people tools to set them apart,” Williams says.

Leadership Based on Performance

One of the many areas where Williams is set apart in a male-dominated profession, at least at the executive level, is being a female. Although Williams says she does not give a lot of thought to being a woman in a powerful position, she believes the focus on any staffer should be on how they do their job, above and beyond anything else.

“I do think that there is an element you have to beware of when you are a female in business. But you just have to really learn to stay true to yourself and know what your path is,” she says. “Performance matters. In the end, the best thing to do is not to focus on that, but to focus on your mission, and when you outperform everyone else, it is very clear that you should be the person in charge.”

There is one obvious need for women to work on as they seek executive leadership roles, and that is to emulate men in networking.

“I think because women were scarce in the business world until recently in any type of business, what I found through my path is we have to raise each other up to be successful so women can continue to be successful,” she says.