Guest Columns

Staying focused in long-term care

Allison True
Allison True

Political correctness is a concept that has been around since the first activists in the University of Wisconsin Madison added it to our language and our thinking. Inevitably, it reached long-term care as an industry. 

The largest LTC companies in the country rallied forth to “train” all of the most senior executives, including administrators, in hopes to make us all conform to the language and thought processes in this new concept. It was mostly embraced by people who wanted to create a positive image of our companies and facilities and avoid litigation if one strayed from these concepts. 

So we, as administrators, were trained on a variety of topics that might get us in trouble from a legal, sociological or political view point (unfortunately). We were all called upon to conform, a separate topic in itself. Conformity was just a job retaining strategy since it was a directive from above. 

There was a time when a colleague and I joked that we were now “trained sexual harassers”. We laughed that now we could know how to do it, when we didn't before, and never actually thought about it as an optional behavior. This concept required us to be vigilant in monitoring for it in our facilities and promptly responding in visible ways to complaints. 

Also, we had to promptly investigate thoroughly any filed complaint. This led to more training in harassment investigations, which was extremely useful for all investigations. All this “special training,” however, as valuable as it was, did not really re-focus our work onto resident care unless it was a customer/family/resident complaint regarding care issues. It took our eyes off the ball. 

As administrators, we had been, and always will be, dedicated to providing the best care. Doing so not only provided personal fulfillment, conformity to corporate policy and directives, but also excellent customer service. Making a difference in the lives of our residents is the ultimate goal in our profession. 

We knew that if we did that, other good outcomes would follow: Census development and financial success, customer satisfaction, good surveys and caring for some of our nations' most vulnerable and dependent persons.

Sometimes Human Resource initiatives teach us how to care for our staff so they can nurture our residents. If they help prevent litigation, that is good for the company. It also prevents us from spending precious time on the impending lawsuit, which also will take our eye off the ball. 

The obvious things to do to deliver resident care have been said many times before: Round with the Director of Nursing to make sure residents are happy and well cared for. Provide opportunities for coaching staff. Catch them “doing something right” so they can be praised and charged with the idea of teaching “good practices” to peers. 

More ways to improve resident care are to strive to forge relationships with residents and staff; vendors and families. When there is attention to staff training and development, employees will grow their self esteem and become better at their work. 

Nursing home administrators usually delight in seeing staff develop knowledge and pride. My book, “Nothing But the Truth,” was written to address the LTC industry and the people who need to know more about it. The book will likely both grieve and anger the reader. It's both a memoir and a news report. 

It has always been my motto to "do the right thing," no matter what. Following that motto has inherent negative consequences, as noted by Ernest Hemingway. He said “the best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, use discipline to tell the truth and the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, it is their virtues that make them vulnerable. They are wounded; sometimes destroyed.”

Allison True was a nursing home administrator for 16 years, and is the author of "Nothing But the Truth." 

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Guest columns are written by long-term care industry experts, ranging from academics and thought leaders to administrators and CEOs.

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