​Receiving the Gold Quality Award from AHCA/NCAL’s National Quality Award program is like traveling to an important bucket list destination. It’s powerful, inspiring, and immensely satisfying, but it’s not the end of the journey. Instead, it makes the road ahead more enlightening, joyful, and filled with optimism. It sheds light on the power of what’s possible.

Breanna JamesonDuring the recent Delivering Solutions 23, AHCA/NCAL’s Annual Convention & Expo, in Denver, Colo., Provider magazine hosted a roundtable discussion with representatives from the 2023 Gold Quality Award-recipient facilities and AHCA/NCAL leadership to discuss the unique value of the award, the path from Bronze to Gold, and what it means to the facility, staff, residents, families, and other stakeholders.

The 2023 recipients are two facilities in the same organizational family—Aspen Park of Cascadia and Lewiston Transitional Care of Cascadia, both in Idaho. Breanna Jameson, chief executive officer (CEO) of Lewiston Transitional Care, said, “I’m proud to represent my team and shine a light on their hard work. They have taken ownership of the Quality Award journey, and the organization provided the autonomy to transition to what we wanted to be.” She added that they had “many conversations with our staff to talk about why we were doing this and what we were trying to accomplish.” She stressed that receiving the Gold Award couldn’t have happened without the commitment and involvement of everyone in the facility.

Rachel ZimmermanRachel Zimmerman, CEO of Aspen Park of Cascadia, said that they focused on financial, cultural, and clinical pillars and “what we do day in and day out.” She added, “Our staff lived this journey, and it aligned with our pursuit of the awards.” Jameson added, “It truly was a beautiful pathway from Bronze to Silver to Gold. The journey pushed us to go where we never imagined we would.”

Its Own Reward…and More

In many ways, the Quality Award journey is its own reward, and there were many highlights and milestones along the way. As Jameson said, “One ‘aha’ moment came as we started to see the benefits of the strategic planning and goal-setting we did as part of the award application. We talk about quality all the time, but the strategic planning shows that in an ever-changing environment, you can create goals to progress and have quality goals and outcomes.” Her facility started out with opportunities for improvement, and today they are a 5-star building with stronger finances and greater resident/staff satisfaction.

Nonetheless, while the journey comes with many achievements and successes, winning is still a great honor. Zimmerman said, “I was so nervous when I got the email. I had someone else read it to me. I was hoping we would get the Gold. We even planned a celebration.”

Robert Vande Merwe, executive director of the Idaho Health Care Association, noted, “You don’t just pay your dues and that’s it.” Jameson said, “The award has narrowed our processes, focuses, and purpose.” This, she noted, ensures that everyone is better prepared for the future. Zimmerman said, “We have implemented twice-daily huddles to talk about goals, and we get staff involved. We review goals and our strategic plan and adjust them as needed.” Jameson stressed that they may have received the top Quality Award, but they will continue their pursuit of excellence using the tools, knowledge, and resources they gained through the journey to the Gold. Zimmerman further noted, “When you get to Gold, you strive to stay there. This is the work our staff do every single day.”

Leadership Lauds the Quest for Quality

AHCA/NCAL CEO Mark Parkinson had nothing but praise for the award recipients. “We know what our work means. We get up early in the morning every day and go out there,” he said, adding, “You are inspiring, and your efforts are truly amazing. It is especially remarkable that you accomplished this partly during the pandemic.” He praised the teamwork that took the facilities to the Gold, and NCAL executive director LaShuan Bethea agreed, noting, “I love that you focused on the team and everyone’s role. I’m sure the residents are excited too.”

Vande Merwe observed, “We have a long legacy of quality in Idaho. Maryruth Butler [who mentored this year’s Gold winners] went on the quality journey with her team. It took five years, but it made such a difference; and others were inspired.” Parkinson urged the Gold recipients, “You can inspire other people. Share your story and talk about your journey.”

It is important for everyone to know about the power of the Quality Awards. This includes legislators and policymakers. Parkinson said, “We need you on the Hill. Policymakers have a view that nursing homes are all run by large companies, but there are so many like you.” Congress, he said, needs to hear about how many smaller organizations are out there providing high-quality care with limited staff and resources. 

Read more: Tips for Quality Awards Success

Joanne Kaldy is a freelance writer and communications consultant based in New Orleans.