Kindred Mountain Valley Staff
Kindred Nursing and Rehabilitation Center – Mountain Valley is a 68-bed skilled nursing center located in Kellogg, Idaho, a rural community set in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. In December, it made history as the nation’s first skilled nursing center to receive the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.
The center is one of four organizations to be named a 2016 award recipient by U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. The other three recipients are Don Chalmers Ford of Rio Rancho, N.M. (small business); Momentum Group of Irvine, Calif. (small business); and Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital of Sugar Land, Texas (health care).
Kindred – Mountain Valley is operated by Kindred Healthcare, a corporation with approximately 90 centers across the nation. The center provides skilled nursing and rehabilitation services for patients who require short-term (six months or less) and long term (longer than six months) care. Ninety-two employees are on staff.

About The Award

The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award is not like any other health care award. It is the country’s highest presidential honor for any organization that demonstrates sustainable excellence through visionary leadership, organizational alignment, systemic improvement, and innovation. The Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology manages the award in cooperation with representatives from the private sector.

An independent board of examiners recommended the 2016 Baldrige Award recipients from a field of 34 applicants after evaluating them in seven areas defined by the Baldrige Excellence Framework: leadership; strategy; customers; measurement, analysis, and knowledge management; workforce; operations; and results.

If this design sounds familiar to long term care providers, that’s because it is. The American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) National Quality Award program is also based on the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. Kindred Nursing and Rehabilitation Center – Mountain Valley was awarded the AHCA/NCAL Gold – Excellence in Quality Award in 2011.

Maryruth ButlerHow Kindred Makes It Happen

“This year’s honorees are trailblazers in innovation, small business, health care, and sustainable textiles,” said Pritzker. “Their visionary leadership is helping to power the economy and increase our ability to compete globally. The Commerce Department proudly supports these four outstanding organizations for their unwavering commitment to performance excellence and their dedication to always reaching higher.”

So how does a small center from a rural community earn the country’s highest honor for performance excellence? For the staff that works there, the journey is nothing short of amazing.

“For a small facility in Idaho to earn our nation’s most prestigious award for quality is an amazing feat,” says Maryruth Butler, executive director of Kindred – Mountain Valley. “It takes an extraordinary commitment to delivering the highest quality of care to our patients and residents to be considered for this honor, and that’s what we get every day from our outstanding team,” she says.

According to Butler, that team is the biggest factor to their success. “The first and foremost contribution to our success was our workforce,” she says. “Their level of engagement, supported by empowerment, definitely played a part.”

Of course, Butler says, the workplace culture at Kindred has its foundation in the strategic planning process. “Over the years we have made a systematic approach to involve our employees in the strategic planning process,” she says. “We have eight strategic objectives in four key success areas that support our organizational success and sustainability. This makes up our action map, and our workforce is involved on a day-to-day basis ensuring the achievement of our strategic objectives.”

Engagement Makes a Difference

Butler says that surveys also keep pace with employee satisfaction. A question included in Kindred’s employee satisfaction survey asks if management has communicated a clear vision for the center. A positive response of “Yes” has increased by 20 percent from 2013 to 2016. “We measure everything, and workforce involvement has really been the key to doing that well,” Butler says.

Staff are very empowered to solve problems, she says. “They might come to me or to anther senior leader with an issue, and we then encourage them to think out of the box.

“No one waits for a meeting, it’s all about getting it done and solving it. We reward that,” she says.

Butler says it’s leadership’s job to track all of the employee-led solutions in a log to keep track and avoid repetition.

“If something is happening in the 100 hall, we want to make sure it’s not happening in the 300 hall,” she says.

Lessons Learned

One of many lessons learned in the process of applying for the Baldrige award was the way that Kindred – Mountain Valley created and used its organizational profile, says Butler.

The company realized that everything needed to be tied back to its organizational profile in the Baldrige criteria.

The profile needed to be specific to the center’s strategic challenges, strategic advantages, and core competencies. It needed to tell a story of the center’s community and workforce.

“We’re a rural- and mining-oriented community. Our industry has been hit very hard by the decline in the mining industry; in fact, we lost 36 percent of our census in the last 40 years. We had to take that into account and discussed that in our organizational profile as well,” says Butler.

Another lesson learned was about the importance of succession planning. In responding to the criteria, Butler says her team realized quickly that they were self-identifying their own opportunities for improvement, the areas that made the center vulnerable as an organization.

“Making sure that the processes we put in place were systematic and repeatable was key. If one person stepped out of the organization, we now have the systems in place to continue our success,” she says.

For Others On The Path To Excellence

Butler says that if providers want to achieve the same success, they should jump in. “They just have to do it,” she says. “They need to write it down as a goal for 2017, that they will apply for an award.

“It helps to remember that it’s a lot of work,” she says. “And celebrate. Celebrate each and every success.”