NEW ORLEANS — The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ new survey process for nursing homes will challenge the sector with a “learning curve,” but providers can stay on top of it by utilizing the agency’s training resources, one CMS official advised on Monday.

Providers would also be wise to keep an eye out for opportunities to get residents involved in their preparation for the new requirements and survey process, said Karen Tritz, director of CMS’ Survey and Certification Group’s Division of Nursing Homes. Tritz updated providers on the new survey process, upcoming Phase 2 of the requirements of participation and emergency preparedness rules during LeadingAge’s Annual Meeting & Expo in New Orleans.

One of the ways to prepare for the new process is to open a discussion with residents on what to expect when the surveyors arrive, Tritz said.

“For some of them, they’ve never sat through a resident council interview, and now they will,” Tritz said. “So there’s an opportunity to say, ‘Here’s how the process is changing, and here’s what you can expect when surveyors arrive.’”

•  During another session at the convention, providers looking to change their workplace culture were encouraged to focus on decreasing fear and assuring employees they won’t lose their jobs.

“It is a choice to come in every day,” explained Katharina Schulten, Twin Towers Senior Living Community Director of Marketing, speaking during “Building a Healthy Work Environment Aligning Behavior with Culture.”

“You train and coach them but you let them have autonomy. The worst thing you can do if you want to empower your workforce is that you can’t put in processes that require permission at every turn.”

That doesn’t mean lower performance standards, but recognizing change requires long-term view.

“Things will get worse before they get better. It’s change,” she said. Part of that training requires over-communication and reinforcing a message of aid.

•  The long-term care sector as a whole is facing change in the form of a tumultuous legislative climate and a slew of natural disasters that put providers to the test, LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan acknowledged during the meeting’s opening general session.

“Who could foresee the human cyclones in our midst,” Sloan said, referring to President Donald Trump, as well as a bipartisan roster of lawmakers involved in this year’s healthcare debates.

“LeadingAge is not partisan, but we are not apolitical,” Sloan said. “We can’t be, not in these turbulent times.”

•  Stephen Fleming, Chairman-Elect of the LeadingAge Board of Directors, echoed Sloan’s comments.

“For too long us here at LeadingAge have been playing defense, now it’s time to focus on offense,” Fleming said, pushing providers to take up advocacy efforts.

Around 7,000 providers and vendors were expected to join LeadingAge in New Orleans this week for the annual meeting, Fleming said. The convention continues through Wednesday.