It’s wholly unintentional, but we find ourselves one-upping the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services this week. 

(Please, keep the barbs and sarcastic remarks about CMS to a minimum. This isn’t going in THAT direction. In fact, if I could think of a good symbol to show you with an open-palmed hand how to stop and not proceed down that path, I’d do it here. And maybe I’d put it in a red circle for added “Do not go there” emphasis, but … oh, never mind.)

This is a happy occasion, one that many, many people have been waiting for, and with good reason. To all who have stopped us to ask or dropped us a line, and for many others, your wait is over: The nomination process for the 2nd Annual McKnight’s Women of Distinction awards program is now open.

What’s more, we’re delivering timely guidance on how to navigate the process to get your impressive colleagues recognition they so richly deserve. Just follow this link to the information page and then link in to the nomination form. Go ahead and take a risk-free peek to see what you need to fill out before completing what could be the nicest gift you give to some deserving long-term care professional you know.

Don’t put it off too long, though. Our early deadline is two weeks away (Dec. 18) and the final deadline is 35 days out (Jan. 8). If your nominee is worthy enough for the honor of being considered now, why not take advantage of the early window and all the benefits?

At least five people already did on Tuesday, the day we opened the nomination portal.

Last year’s inaugural program was a blast. This is my favorite video clip to show you some of the fun at the awards ceremony. More profile articles, blogs and coverage can be found here. You and your friends would look awfully good in the 2020 version, wouldn’t you?

Once again, we’ll feature a robust class of Hall of Honor inductees, women at the VP or higher level in their organizations, as well as a solid group of Rising Stars, for those relatively early in promising careers. Topping it all off will be a Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

We expect another powerful batch of nominations this year, so let me offer you a few tips for filling out the basic entry form, based on what we saw from last year’s winners: 

•  Give our independent judging panel something quantifiable to hang onto. Sure, so-called “soft” leadership and compassion qualities are good, but if census numbers, quality scores, profit margins or other measurable identifiers can be applied, by all means use them.

•  Take at least a few pains to find out more about your nominee than you might already know by yourself. Last year there were many entrants thisclose to be honored at the gala in Chicago, but they simply didn’t have enough written about them, or weren’t rounded out enough.

•  We are naturally interested in excellence in long-term care duties, but where there’s an opportunity to tell us about outstanding “extracurricular” involvement outside the workplace, don’t leave that space blank! There’s no question that many from last year’s overflow crowd will still remember hearing about the Hall of Honor inductee who had recently added volunteer firefighter to her resume. Hearing about charitable works, other examples of giving back to the community or overcoming special hardships can only help here.

•  To reiterate, even if you’re nominating someone as a surprise, just make sure you offer enough depth of detail about what makes her great at what she does. You might want to make the surprise the fact that you’re entering this friend, colleague or former co-worker — and then enlist the nominee’s help before you complete the form.

I’ll repeat: Don’t let the holidays sneak up on you so that you miss the deadline. The final deadline is Jan. 8, 2020, and it’s closer than you might think. Judging by a national, independent panel will quickly ensue so we can set up the grand awards ceremony in May.

Hopefully by then CMS will have issued its guidance on the Phase 3 Requirements of Participation … that went into effect last week.

Follow Executive Editor James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.