If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you know that my wife and I love to travel. Friends and colleagues often ask me about the trips we take or where our next adventure will lead us. I’ve had the privilege of visiting many interesting places and experiencing different cultures, from China, Costa Rica, Israel and Germany. But sometimes a travel hobby may come with a price, it becomes contagious to your children. Our daughter Deanna who graduated this year from UCF with a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education has left the country to travel to South Korea and teach English in a local elementary school for 12 months. Needless to say, we are already planning our trip to South Korea in a few months.
During this first phase of my FHCA presidency, I’ve also had some incredible adventures. My travels with FHCA have given me great perspective on the role of our Association and the appreciation and respect we generate among members, including frontline caregivers, policymakers, legislators and others who impact our profession.
When I stood before you at Annual Conference, I shared my vision for success. Engaging in grassroots and political action to achieve success is my first area of focus. It was important for me to lead by example, so for the past few months I have traveled across Florida and many times to Tallahassee to meet with key legislative leaders. I had the opportunity to connect on several occasions with Governor Scott, who heads to Washington, DC, next month to represent Florida as a U.S. Senator. So much of our operations are impacted by federal regulations and changes to Medicare payments, so we cannot discount how critical our national advocacy work will be in the months ahead.
I also spent time with Florida’s Senate and House leaders and building those relationships will make a difference when I return to Tallahassee in March for the 2019 session. I encourage you to reach out to your local legislators, many who may be new to office. Invite them into your center between now and when the Legislature convenes in March. It will make your Lobby Wednesday experience even more productive, and you’ll help extend our reach among those whose decisions affect what we do.
My next area of focus is to improve the image of nursing centers and help those outside our profession better understand the complex care we deliver. There is so much good news that happens in our centers every day. We have to be better storytellers whether through our own public relations efforts or by filtering stories through the Association to share on our behalf.
Not long after I took office, Florida’s Panhandle was devastated by Hurricane Michael. My company, Gulf Coast Health Care, is headquartered in Pensacola, and many of our centers saw significant damage as a result of the storm. I’m proud of our Gulf Coast team for working so hard to keep their residents safe, and for pulling together after the storm to help our staff who were displaced.
I wanted to do more, so I traveled to Tallahassee and, together with Emmett and the staff who coordinate our emergency operations and response, we began a Hurricane Michael relief and recovery effort that is beyond what we could have imagined.
First, we began collecting supplies from various drop points in the state. Next, we loaded up several vans and drove to Marianna, Panama City and Blountstown – just one week after Hurricane Michael had made landfall. The devastation and destruction was indescribable. It looked like a warzone, with roofs and building torn apart, downed trees and power lines and makeshift relief stations set up along the way.
We visited six member nursing centers, some of which were operational thanks to generators. Others, including two of our Gulf Coast centers, were significantly damaged and uninhabited until the damage can be repaired. The caregivers, residents and family members of both welcomed us with open arms at every stop. They inspired us with their spirits, amazed us with their courage and impressed us with their commitment to keeping the residents safe and well cared both during and after the storm.
Those visits were pushed out on Twitter and Facebook, via press releases and through media interviews, and the result was thousands of dollars raised from donors across the country. Their support of our Hurricane Michael relief effort is allowing us to offer more than supplies; now we can provide financial assistance to the caregivers trying to recover and rebuild. Every day we have a positive story or outcome, but each of us must take the time to tell that story or we can never truly change the image and perceptions about our profession.
My final goal is to improve quality care outcomes and relationships with state and federal agencies. This area of focus has affected the travel schedule of more than just myself. FHCA’s Quality Cabinet and its associated Councils held a two-day strategic planning session in Tallahassee not long ago, and the Long Term Care Survey Task Force met recently as well to discuss the latest survey trends and focus on ways to continue improving resident outcomes. Engaging members in meetings like these are all part of the strategy to ensure FHCA remains the largest and leading long term care association in the state. When we lead the way in quality, we’re looked to as thought leaders and those outside the profession turn to our expertise when it comes to elder care in Florida.
Relationship building is another area I believe is critical to my success as your FHCA President. I hit the road a number of times since Annual Conference to visit and strategize with the FHCA Executive Committee, the Board of Directors and several FHCA committees. I also spent time with the newest class members of FHCA’s Florida Leaders, including these graduates and program sponsors, and plan to do the same when the Executive Nurse Leadership Academy kicks off in February.
These leaders are helping to shape the future for our profession and the Association; they know the value of relationships and the importance of staying engaged.
I’ll continue my travels in the year ahead, both personal and professional. I encourage you to get out there as well and hope to see many of you at an upcoming educational training, district meeting or another FHCA activity. You never know who you might meet or what you might learn on your next adventure!
Happy holidays and best wishes on an incredible new year!