Friday, November 2, 2018

Going for Gold – An Assisted Living Perspective

Marcia Jackson, Administrator of Maine Veterans’ Home – Machias

We started our quality journey in 2009 by applying for the AHCA/NCAL National Bronze Quality Award, which we received in 2010. We went on to be recipients of the Silver Award in 2014, and this year we achieved the highest honor, Gold.

While being included in this elite group of the “best of the best” in long term care in the nation is astounding, we have gained so much more during this process. We have gained extensive knowledge about ourselves and the Baldridge Criteria, which covers every aspect of the long term care business. By evaluating leadership, strategy, customers, measurement, analysis, knowledge management, workforce, operations, and finally results (our scorecard), we further learned who we are, who competitors are, and where we want to be in the future. More importantly, it facilitated us in defining and perfecting our processes and systems. It assisted us in hardwiring excellence.

The Baldrige Criteria fits perfectly with our corporate culture of self-evaluation, reevaluation, development, looking to the future, and aspiring to and attaining excellence. It is imperative to have leadership support, whatever that is for your organization, to embark on this quest.

In hindsight, I would advise you to develop a team from conception. As the administrator, I wrote and submitted the Bronze application. This was a major mistake. How can you inspire your team to “go for the Gold” if they are not cognizant of the purpose and progression of the journey? Not everyone understood the process or what the awards meant. Education was imperative and needed to be repeated and presented in various ways to different staff. 

A team was developed for the Silver application and worked on the Silver and Gold achievements over the next seven years. We implemented the Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement (QAPI) program and determined we were doing well, but we wanted more. We wanted to be one of the best in our town, state, and nation. We used the quality journey to link our measures (results) to our strategic objectives and goals. From this, we learned what our strategic challenges were and how to address them. We developed performance improvement projects (PIPs), which engaged residents and all levels of staff. 

By the end of our Silver journey, we established a cohesive team with the same objectives and goals!  We had a tremendous culture change that included our residents and families, and our QAPI and PIPS were driving the way we kept a pulse on our changes.

By the end of the Gold journey, what we learned during the process was embedded in all that we do. We went through a monumental transformation. It is incredible to look back on how far we have come, what we learned, and how we changed what we do.

Our journey does not end here. We will continue learning, evaluating, and integrating this knowledge throughout our center. It is impossible in a few short words to impress upon other assisted living facilities the importance of embarking on this learning progression. You will achieve monumental milestones and develop an atmosphere of continuous quality improvement. I hope you will embark on this journey – it is well worth it.

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