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Mather Pavilion's Culture of Leadership

September 1, 2010
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Quality care through staff continuity
2010 OPTIMA Award proudly sponsored by

Since 1996, Long-Term Living has been honoring long-term care facilities that are proactive with programs that go “above and beyond” routine care for their residents with our prestigious OPTIMA Award. It is conferred by a jury of your long-term care peers from submitted entries. This year's winner is Mather Pavilion of Evanston, Illinois-one of the four Mather LifeWays senior residences. As was the case for many communities a decade ago, severe turnover among nurses and especially CNAs forced Mather Pavilion's administration to review staff and resident satisfaction. Through focus groups and surveys, the community learned of the respondents' shared desires: respect, communication, and meaningful relationships. To meet these needs, the LEAP (Learn, Empower, Achieve, Produce) program was implemented in November of 2000. Nurses were trained to be leaders and clinical experts; CNAs were selected to advance in their positions through a career ladder. By developing an effective long-term care workforce that empowers individual staff members to lead or mentor colleagues, a dramatic reversal in staff turnover was realized, leading to improved quality of resident-centered care at this 150-bed community.

Our congratulations to this year's winner for all the hard work, inspired ideas, and commitment to making a positive change every day in every elder's life. We'd also like to thank Direct Supply for sponsoring our 15th annual OPTIMA Award.

jill brazel photography

Mather Pavilion resident Esther Fell (left) enjoys a sunny afternoon outdoors with Anna Lynn Coballes, RN, Nurse Supervisor

Joyce Garcia admits she wanted to run away from the families of residents.
That was how she felt 10 years ago at least, when these interactions were nerve-racking and awkward. The certified nursing assistant (CNA) at Mather Pavilion now embraces families by making routine phone calls, notifying them on everything from the day-to-day status of their loved ones to the unearthed location of mom's missing dentures. “They are used to being called about residents having a fall or something bad happening,” Garcia says. “So we have to reassure them that mom is OK, that she did something they should be proud of today.”

The confidence that drives Mather Pavilion's CNAs like Garcia to engage in regular dialogue with families is the result of an inspiring workforce initiative called LEAP. It represents the goals “Learn, Empower, Achieve, Produce” and is the brainchild of a nonprofit skilled nursing community that, for a brief period, found itself wondering how to overcome the staffing blues.

Those who desired change

At the end of the ′90s, Mather Pavilion's turnover rates were at a high of 47% for nurses and 76% for CNAs. While this situation may have been common in long-term care at the time, administration and staff identified how such poor retention was affecting resident care. A consultant from the state affiliate of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA) was brought in to facilitate focus groups and provide an objective summary of staff, resident, and family comments about the community. Surveys had also been administered-the results of which were eye-opening: Nurses wanted more communication and support, along with feelings of appreciation; CNAs requested in-depth clinical skills, enabling them to better care for residents; and the residents themselves simply wanted relationships with their caregivers.

“The focus groups allowed everyone to be comfortable talking to someone they didn't know saying whatever was on their mind,” says Jayne Schaefer, workforce programs manager at Mather LifeWays. In-house researchers and educators partnered with the AAHSA consultant to design a comprehensive program that educates both nurses and CNAs within a consistent assignment staffing model. This form of staffing assigns specific caregivers to individual residents allowing meaningful relationships to be formed.

“Sometimes all they need is a hug, telling them that you love them and you care for them and you live for them,” Garcia says of her own residents.