Many of our most vulnerable citizens, the elderly and chronically ill, are currently living in care centers across the country. Keeping a care center COVID-free requires staff to make a vigilant effort that might not be visible to the public. The effort is reminiscent of the old saying, “Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like mad underneath.”

For this week’s care center spotlight, we are featuring Marshall Health and Rehabilitation Center in Perry, Florida, and how they have been working diligently to maintain their COVID-free status. Marshall began the process by testing every patient and each staff member to determine that everyone was COVID-free. They moved forward with the aim to keep the coronavirus out of the building.

Focusing on continuous quality improvement has been at the heart of Marshall’s success. Even before the pandemic, Melissa Fijaklowski, the executive director of Marshall, was a strong believer in process improvement. In the care center, she is fondly referred to as the “PIP Queen,” PIP being an abbreviation for Process Improvement Plan. Although the quality improvement process is required as part of the law governing care centers, Fijaklowski believes in it from the bottom of her heart. “No one is perfect, and the quality improvement process enables everyone to learn from identifying problems and making systems better,” she said.

Excellent communication has also been fundamental to maintaining health and happiness in the care center. Information from the health department, emergency management, and corporate is constantly being updated as more is learned about the pandemic. The management at Marshall is making sure that every staff person in the care center receives the updates immediately.

The process for communication with family members has changed with the pandemic too. Since visitors aren’t allowed in the care center, the staff has stepped up communication via phone. For instance, when a new resident is admitted, a staff member calls the family within 24 hours, letting them know the resident has been admitted, safe, settled, their room number, and nurse’s name. Within 72 hours, the patient’s personal concierge (or advocate) contacts the family with lots of details from his or her daily meetings with the resident.

Marshall is not letting down their guard against COVID-19 one bit. By managing every aspect of who is allowed in the building, they are striving to remain COVID-free for the long haul. They have successfully adapted their activities program to keep residents stimulated and are using technology to keep everyone in touch with loved ones outside the building. They are continuing to “paddle like mad” below the surface, and combined with a bit of good fortune, plan to stay COVID-free!

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