Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Guest Post: Changing the “Rodney Dangerfield” of Health Care

Robert Van Dyk
December 22, 2010
By: Robert Van Dyk, Chair, AHCA Board of Governors

Reflecting on the many accomplishments we achieved this past year, I am more determined than ever to change the outdated perceptions that still persist in our nation's capital and across the country. We've made progress to be sure; yet, our commitment to quality and care of our aging society has been largely overlooked. As I told AHCA/NCAL members at our annual convention, our profession is seen as the "Rodney Dangerfield" of health care… we get no respect.

Although many of us have devoted our lives to understanding and providing the care America’s seniors need, the long term and post-acute care sector does not receive the attention it deserves. While others have a seat at the health care table, we’re on the menu. Perhaps this is because policymakers in Washington, DC, as well as the general public, know very little about what we do. They don’t know that the care hospitals provide on a Thursday for about $3,000, we provide for $400 on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And while health care reform will deliver 32 million newly insured customers to hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and others across the health care spectrum, long term and post-acute care will not benefit from such an increase.

As I see it, our dilemma is two-fold - how do we secure our seat at the table, and how do we get policymakers to understand that funding is not just about payment, it’s about people? To me, the answers are rooted in one, simple word - respect.

The work long term and post-acute care providers do each day should command the same level of respect so readily given to our colleagues in hospitals and other health care settings. After all, today's nursing and rehabilitative facility provides the same kind of care available only in hospitals some 20 years ago. Unfortunately, our image has not kept pace with our capacity to provide care. So, we need to bring the public and Congress up to speed.

When we hear policymakers in Washington or back home refer to us as "just business owners,” we need to tell them that we're so much more. In fact, long term and post-acute care isn't about us. It’s about the people we care for, the staff we employ and the families who rely on us to be there for their loved ones and for them.

Changing a decades-old perception is hard work, and AHCA/NCAL cannot do it alone. It will take effort and we will need our colleagues, our patients, residents, staff and family members to back it up. The start of a new year, and a new decade seems like the perfect time to take on such a daunting task. I look forward to sharing much more about this challenge as we usher in 2011.


Dave Sedgwick said...

Robert, I couldn't have put it better myself. I tried to about a week ago here :) as I reflected on my first 9 years in the industry and looked forward to my next 10.

The Rodney Dangerfield remark is true but ironic since our acute counterparts are, in many cases, so far removed from the trenches where patients and caregivers interact. Their 'office jobs' require so much less of them than our administrators are stretched to handle, manage, and lead day in and day out.

Good luck to us in dignifying long-term care in the eyes of the world!

AHCA/NCAL said...


Thank you for your comment and for your service America’s seniors. With 9 years in the profession, you know all about the obstacles that have prevented the public perception from keeping up with our capacities.

Your comment on the multifaceted administrator role is spot on. I think a major part of what we do in 2011 needs to focus on increasing awareness in the public eye about all that administrators and caregivers do on a day-to-day basis. This will be an essential part of addressing the stereotypes that have remained stagnant while advances in long term and post-acute care have been fluid.

With that said, I invite you to join us in 2011; "dignifying" how the profession is perceived demands that we work collectively toward that goal.

- Robert Van Dyk

Anonymous said...

Put my name down in support of your views on changing the public image of the "nursing home" industry. I have been a nursing home administrator for the past 20+ years and have seen our industry struggle with this issue as we juggle the daily issues of excessive regulatory/compliance, budget cut backs, and growing need of recruiting qualified licensed nurses and caregivers for our facilities. at my current facility we work with several local colleges and high schools for their clinical experience and one comment that comes back on from the students "we did not know all that goes on in long term care" - It will take a large effort on the part of all current skilled care leaders and caregivers to get the public image to change and understand that the "nursing home" is not the "final destination" but communities that enpower our senior population to use their current strenghts, to become useful parts of society and to enjoy a quality lifestyle. The current nursing facilities have changed and now provide post-acute care and rehabilitation services that was once only seen in the hospital setting.
Just let me know if there is anything that I can do to assist in your project.
M. Robin Niles/North Carolina

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