“Nothing worthwhile in life is ever easy.” I’m not certain where that quote originated, but my father often shared those words whenever I took on a difficult challenge. Those words echoed through my mind as we took on the application process for the American Health Care Association’s Quality Award Silver application.

What is the award?

The AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award Program provides a pathway for providers of long-term and post-acute care services to journey towards performance excellence. The program is based on the core values and criteria of the Baldridge Performance Excellence Program. Member centers may apply for three progressive levels of awards: Bronze—Commitment to Quality, Silver—Achievement in Quality, or Gold—Excellence in Quality. Each level has its own distinct rigors and requirements for quality and performance excellence. (AHCA/NCAL2018)

These rigors and requirements in applying for this distinction produced five lessons learned that I will never forget.

The Value of Continuous Improvement

In such a highly regulated industry, it’s easy to get overly concerned about documentation, root cause interventions, and the possibility of missing something important. The consequences can be unforgiving. With that, it’s imperative to always evaluate and audit systems used to maximize the care for others. A common trend throughout the application process requires providing details of how your facility captures, evaluates, and improves performance/outcomes. With every advancement through the application process, I began having more of an appreciation for the QAPI process (an auditing tool that I took for granted as a common industry practice). What’s better than identifying a trend, creating a plan of attack, and tracking progress? Think about it, for every level of leadership and operational processes within an organization, continuous improvement and development is necessary and expected.

Just Start!

In the beginning, I found the award application process intimidating. As operational and clinical leaders, our days are packed, leaving little time for non-mandatory tasks. “Now when are we going to have time for this?” I thought. As a speaker traveling the country, I teach people to acknowledge and confront obstacles, followed by taking action through engagement. With that, I acknowledged that this application process would require time and effort. So stop wasting time, take action, and just start! The action and effort slowly defeated the intimidation and sparked enthusiasm for capabilities of our facility.

It’s Not About Winning

Let’s be clear, I am certain everyone who applies for the AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award wants to earn it, especially when you are looking at the amount of time invested with the Silver and Gold levels. With every advancement through the process, the pride for the facility, the care and outcomes seem to bubble up daily. Early in the application process, we realized it was never about winning. The goal is to recognize the performance excellence of your facility; moreover, the performance excellence required to complete the application. When it’s all said and done, we have already won by completing an application worthy of review.

You are Part of a Professional Community

The senior healthcare industry is loaded with resources and support. My introduction to the Quality Awards process occurred during an Indiana Health Care Association’s half-day workshop that introduced me to the Baldridge Performance Excellence language and served as an ice breaker. It also opened my eyes to the goals of my peers to complete the project as well. I will never forget being stumped by a question and calling a fellow Administrator. She allowed me to vent, listened, and translated the question, helping me to understand. This industry is loaded with State Health Care Associations and Operational/Clinical Leaders, all of whom are committed to advancing quality healthcare and performance excellence. The take away…. Get involved.

What an Honorable Industry

Professionally caring for people is a great responsibility and penetrates beyond business, careers, and professions. Honor comes from putting others’ needs before your own. As the Executive Director of a Skilled Nursing Facility, I am honored to work alongside healthcare professionals who exemplify this honor on a regular basis. Regulations and standards are necessary when caring for others. Moreover, caring for people who are held in high regard within a family can come with unreasonably high expectations. With that, continue doing your level best each day and performance excellence will follow.

Jerald Cosey, HFA. is the Executive Director of Greenwood Meadows operated by American Senior Communities, a skilled nursing facility serving 166 residents on the southside of Indianapolis, IN.

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