AHCA NCAL COVID-19 Honors Program Celebrates Caregivers – Provider

AHCA NCAL COVID-19 Honors Program Celebrates Caregivers

Across the country, long term care facilities recognize their heroic staff who demonstrate strength and courage in the face of the pandemic.

Natalie Visnick   11/17/2021

Beginning in March 2020, COVID-19 swept through long term care facilities almost overnight. Facility leadership and staff were faced with unprecedented challenges. Not even proven existing emergency preparedness and infection prevention plans could contain this new and unknown virus.

Despite all of the unimaginable challenges brought on by the pandemic, long term care staff across the country have shown incredible determination and dedication to the residents they care for every day.

An Idea is B​orn

On Nov. 12, 2020, after hearing about various Veterans Day celebrations that had taken place the day before, Stacy Cromer, divisional director of operations at Life Care Centers of America, recognized a resemblance between these veterans and long term care workers.

Stacy Cromer“I felt we were also in the middle of a COVID war. A war just as bad, only we couldn’t see it, and our staff really needed to be celebrated as well. Life Care did a great job celebrating folks; however, I wanted it bigger than Life Care, bigger than a state would do,” Cromer recalls.

This prompted her to reach out to Mark Parkinson, president and chief executive officer of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) with the idea of a national recognition program. Fully supportive of such an initiative, Parkinson and AHCA/NCAL set out to create and execute something meaningful for the long term care sector.

In March 2021, AHCA/NCAL launched the COVID-19 Honors Program (CHP) for long term care facilities to recognize their heroic staff who demonstrated strength and co urage in the face of COVID-19.

Program merchandise included a pin for individuals who work in a long term care facility that experienced a COVID outbreak, a medal for staff who contracted COVID-19 and survived, and a medal to the families of those staff members who passed away from the virus.

Providers Embrace Program

National HealthCare Corp. (NHC) placed the largest order for all of its 75 skilled nursing centers, 25 assisted living communities, five independent living communities, and 35 home care agencies, totaling nearly 15,000 employees across 10 states.

Denise Alvis of NHC who placed the order notes, “As a member of AHCA/NCAL, we embraced the opportunity to recognize our health care heroes through the CHP. Each of our locations hosted a unique ceremony to recognize each staff member’s commitment to our patients and each other throughout the pandemic. Staff had the opportunity to share personal experiences of hope and loss.

“Recognizing the teamwork and individual efforts of our NHC staff was a special way to help boost morale as we move forward,” she says.

‘Staff Wear Them Every Day’

Christopher House, an independent nonprofit skilled nursing center in Worcester, Mass., opted not to hold a ceremony. Instead, each department manager or supervisor handed a pin to each staff member individually to thank them personally for their service.

“Staff still wear them every day, and we give them to new employees. It’s still a pandemic, and they’re still facing the challenges of COVID-19,” says Sandra Mahoney, Christopher House administrator. “People were touched and felt appreciated by the gift. They see it as a true recognition.”

Since its unveiling, the program has been met with overwhelming success. AHCA/NCAL has received numerous messages from participating facilities that the program has helped lift spirits and assured staff that they are truly valued.

The program will conclude at the end of December 2021. However, facilities are encouraged to continue honoring staff and conveying appreciation for the hard work and sacrifices they make every single day.

Natalie Visnick is senior manager of Public Affairs for the American Health Care Association.​