In a caregiving landscape that has shifted significantly, the one constant is the commitment of long term care providers to continue delivering the highest quality care for residents.

That has never been more apparent than through the record number of applications received for this year’s AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award Program, a rigorous three-level process that evaluates an organization’s capacity and capabilities against nationally recognized standards for excellence. It is the most comprehensive and cost-​effective performance assessment available.

But what does that really mean? It means your organization has a unique opportunity to participate in a meaningful quality-improvement journey to help identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for development. It can also help elevate your organization as a visible leader in providing quality care.

That’s exactly what it is: not just an award, but a journey. Organizations that accomplish each level of the program (Bronze, Silver, and Gold) receive a physical award for reaching each level and special recognition at the AHCA/NCAL Convention & Expo. However, the journey starts by identifying a foundation that supports continued growth and development throughout each level.

Assisted living communities are uniquely positioned to benefit from this journey. Quality improvement is not going away, and getting in front of existing and potential regulatory requirements at both the state and federal levels is vital. Furthermore, stakeholders, state agencies, potential customers, and referral sources want proof that assisted living communities are providing quality care and services to residents. This is an extremely competitive marketplace, and quality improvement must be a priority.

Performing at the highest level as a result of this journey can set assisted living providers up for success in many ways.

Going through the program can support positive workforce outcomes. It guides organizations in exploring recruitment and retention, and it guides the culture of high-performing teams through a continuous improvement process that fosters open communication, equity, inclusion, engagement, learning, development, and evaluation. This can help with team building, pride, and improved satisfaction.

It also supports staff engagement. When employees feel more connected to the work they do and why they are doing it, and they understand and are motivated to achieve the goals of the organization, they become more engaged and create improved satisfaction within the organization. There is a connection between job satisfaction, motivation, and effectiveness—and that point is where the employee becomes engaged. The Quality Award journey helps create this connection. Organizations that have engaged employees have higher productivity, customer satisfaction, retention, quality, and innovation.

The Quality Award Program helps organizations become stronger and more resilient. Learn to anticipate, prepare for, and recover from disasters, emergencies, and other disruptions by working through the rigorous application process. Organizations will identify areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. This results in an enhanced workforce, customer engagement, organizational productivity, and community well-being during times of change.

Organizations that go on this journey receive an outside perspective from trained experts. This is an important opportunity to learn from expert feedback on both areas of strength and opportunities for improvement based on an examination of the award application against the nationally recognized Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence.

It will help an organization get the recognition it deserves. High-performing organizations enjoy well-earned acknowledgment when they receive a Quality Award. This recognition can be shared with potential residents and other stakeholders, including hospital and referral providers.

NCAL has made quality improvement a priority and is working closely with assisted living members on this important effort. More information and resources about the Quality Award Program can be found on the AHCA/NCAL website at Don’t hesitate to reach out to NCAL if we can support you in your quality-improvement journey.

Pam Truscott is director of quality improvement at the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL).