The change initiative at Asbury Place Maryville got a big thumbs-up in May when staff and volunteers garnered three top honors given to programs or services that go above and beyond normal operations to enhance the field of aging services. The awards were given by LeadingAge Tennessee at its 2014 Annual Conference.
The trade association named the Redefining Asbury Dining (RAD) Team as “Innovator of the Year,” Linda Farrant as “Volunteer of the Year,” and staff member April Overholt as winner of the “Whatever it Takes Award” for her teamwork and service to residents, families and fellow staff.
Nominations were reviewed and winners selected by an awards committee made up of the association’s business partners in the senior services industry, says Vickie Harris, Executive Director for LeadingAge Tennessee.
Particularly noteworthy about Asbury, adds Harris, “was their commitment to celebrating the excellence of their staff by having the entire RAD team travel from Maryville to Nashville to receive the Innovator of the Year Award … yet another indication of leadership’s caring and committed approach to all its stakeholders.”
What’s behind the winning of so many honors by Asbury Place Maryville?
“It’s this culture change journey we’re on,” says Douglas Bryant, Assistant Administrator. “It helps everyone find their place and not be afraid to step up and be a leader.”
That describes Overholt, a Lifestyles/Activities staff member and C.N.A. who works in the memory support neighborhood and is a member of the RAD and Steering Teams. “It takes a lot of courage to be a front line associate and sit on teams with traditional leadership … to have her voice heard at a table of strong personalities,” says Bryant. “No matter what needs to be done or what obstacles are in the way, she works really well with others to overcome those obstacles.”
As does Farrant, “a very gentle spirit with a calming presence,” says Bryant. “She comes in and says, ‘I’d love to volunteer here; what do you want me to do?’ rather than saying, ‘Here is what I want to do.’” Hence, her diverse involvement from helping with special events to filling in at the reception desk several days a week. Her husband is the chaplain. “We got two for one when we hired him and never realized how much she would contribute,” says Bryant.
RAD, the innovator, brings together individual commitments exemplified by Overholt and Farrant from across the organization into a team effort. “Our primary focus is nurturing the body and soul through the daily pleasures of food that our residents enjoyed before coming to Asbury Place,” Maureen Eisele, Food Services Director, explains in a recent memo.
Nurses and C.N.A.s join with staff members from dining, housekeeping and lifestyles to make up the 14-member RAD team. The diversity of members is intended to break down departmental silos, says Eisele. “It was critical to involve as many departments as possible, knowing that any and all changes in dining would somehow affect all departments.”
Before making food service changes, the team set out to learn what the residents want, what they enjoyed before moving to long-term care, and could it be provided at Asbury Place. Each team member adopted a neighborhood and spoke with the residents within to learn their daily food pleasures.
The changes that followed in early 2014 include letting residents “sleep in,” delivering meals an hour later than previously served, and brewing coffee in common areas to create the aromas of home. Early results are a far more relaxed pace for everyone and greater food intake by residents, reports Eisele.
The team’s goal for 2014 is to eliminate all tray line service, provide family style dining with more food choices, and stock neighborhood pantries with residents’ favorite items.
Eisele credits Action Pact consultant, Linda Bump, as “the driving force for my personal inspiration and involvement in culture change … she knew exactly what we were up against and how to get to our goals with our existing building and staffing status.”
Bump and other Action Pact consultants began working with Asbury Place Maryville just over a year ago. They provided the tools to cultivate skills that were lying dormant, says Bryant. Those skills are now awakening throughout the organization and enthusiasm for change at Asbury Place Maryville is getting out into the broader community, he says. “People are wanting to be involved in what’s going on.”