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Achieve Accreditation Blog Posts

The Achieve Accreditation Story: An interview with Kathleen O’Connor, MA President & Founder of Achieve Accreditation by Jessica Prucha, BAJ Achieve Accreditation Brand Storyteller.

Jessica Prucha: What inspired you to launch Achieve Accreditation?

Kathleen O’Connor: The inspiration for Achieve Accreditation actually started as a seed in my brain, planted by an undergraduate professor over 35 years ago. I was assigned the task to research a company that I might want to work for after graduation. I stumbled upon The Joint Commission in my research, and I was inspired to learn more. Once I discovered an organization that had an entire mission dedicated to continuous quality improvement, I was hooked. This research project eventually led to a career at The Joint Commission lasting almost a decade, where I was fortunate enough to assist in the development of The Joint Commission standards and survey process, train Joint Commission surveyors, and lecture nationally on accreditation as a representative of The Joint Commission. I will also be forever thankful for the great support provided to me by The Joint Commission in obtaining my master’s degree in Gerontology. My next big career calling came in the form of an initial internal whisper and then a louder voice within me that I could not ignore. I had a great urge to bring the best practices learned during my tenure at The Joint Commission to grow performance improvement initiatives in the senior living industry. This journey eventually led me to launch Achieve Accreditation. Many people say that one good teacher can really change your life, in my case that was certainly true. My professor ended up greatly influencing the entire trajectory of my career path by simply pointing me in the right direction.

Jessica Prucha: What have been the surprises and new trends that you have witnessed specific to Joint Commission Nursing Care Accreditation in the last three decades?

Kathleen O’Connor: The rapid growth of skilled nursing providers seeking accreditation has been a welcomed surprise. The increasing number of third-party payors recognizing accreditation, as well as states aligning Medicaid reimbursement incentives with accreditation, is definitely trending up. This trend benefits both providers and residents when quality is upheld to be both recognized and celebrated.

Jessica Prucha: What are some of the memories that stand out most in your mind over the last 30 years in the field of Joint Commission Accreditation?

Kathleen O’Connor: I have thousands of memories of Joint Commission surveys and the difficult but worthwhile preparation work involved. It has been an extremely rewarding aspect of my career to be in a constant learning environment when working with colleagues and client partners. This keeps the work super fresh. The strong colleague relationships and friendships that I have developed are certainly icing on the cake of an over 30-year career in accreditation. There is a funny memory that has stuck with many of our client partners over the decades and is often brought up when reminiscing with colleagues. Specifically, when my daughter Claire was young, she and I volunteered throughout the month of March for many years. We brought our two Shih Tzus, Shamrock and Finnegan, who were dyed green for the St. Patrick’s Day season, to visit both residents and staff on weekends. I am always amazed how many people still talk about this memory on a regular basis. It really drives home the point that it is the “little things” in life that people actually remember the most.

Jessica Prucha: What excites you the most when you look toward Achieve Accreditation’s future?

Kathleen O’Connor: I am excited for the great privilege to be a part of our client partners’ continual performance improvement journeys. I am thrilled to share my career life with the incredibly professional, supportive, and collaborative Achieve Accreditation team. I am overjoyed to be once again helping assisted living providers obtain accreditation. We are super energized as a team to continue to grow our Achieve Accreditation brand nationally and to be a part of the senior living industry’s performance improvement journey on a wider scale.

Jessica Prucha, BAJ is the Brand Storyteller at Achieve Accreditation. Achieve Accreditation has helped skilled nursing providers and assisted living organizations to obtain and maintain their Joint Commission Accreditation for over 30 years.

The global pandemic has required us all to re-evaluate our personal and professional lives with a new perspective. Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on our world, leaving in its wake: death, permanent disability, loss of livelihoods, a worldwide mental health crisis, and too many tragedies to adequately capture in words. 

While we continue to face these ever-present challenges, we are reminded of how truly connected we are as a global community. While the virus spread rapidly across the globe, so did kindness and the resilience of the human spirit.

Employers are now presented with new opportunities to capitalize on including:

The Employee Experience: Employers can support employees as they navigate through difficult times. There can be a renewed employer willingness to listen to what matters most to employees and an openness to explore modifications to company practices so that employees may successfully emerge from the pandemic with solid physical and emotional health.

Flexibility: Employers can give employees the gift of time to balance their professional responsibilities and personal lives to help alleviate pandemic burnout as well as improve job satisfaction levels.

Prioritizing Employee Wellness: Employers who help employees manage their work-life balance will strengthen their partnerships with employees. Working together to come up with creative solutions to prevent and alleviate burnout will strengthen employees’ immune systems, improve their daily outlook, and equally as important, it will position employees for greater success in meeting clients’ needs.

Remote Workforce Opportunities: Employers have a real opportunity to think bigger. There is an opportunity to cast a wider net globally when searching for employee and business partner talent. Achieve Accreditation is excited to be launching several new staff business partnerships in the coming months across more states, in Mexico, and in England. The world somehow seems smaller thanks to the enhanced acceptance of technologies like Zoom. Other business technology advances also allow us to have virtual real time workspaces, enabling opportunities for collaboration with individuals across the globe to create more creative business solutions. This “wider net” thinking will allow us as a company to strengthen our efforts to be more purposeful in seeking out diversity and inclusion. Companies stand to learn and grow when the work environment fosters the creation of ideas and solutions from a variety of backgrounds.

Charles Dickens said, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The global pandemic certainly hits the mark for the worst of times. Employers owe it to themselves, their employees, and their clients to look for “pearls of opportunities” to establish positive changes and workplace stability, despite the uncertainty of these difficult times.

Kathleen O’Connor, MA is President & Founder of Achieve Accreditation. Achieve Accreditation has helped skilled nursing providers and assisted living organizations to obtain and maintain their Joint Commission Accreditation for over 30 years.

Skilled Nursing Accreditation

Record numbers of skilled nursing providers are seeking Joint Commission Nursing Care Center Accreditation. Yet, there are still surprisingly old myths lurking in the background of this industry movement. The purpose of this article is to dispel the four most common myths that are no longer relevant in the skilled nursing industry.

Myth #1: “Accreditation is not considered a value-added pursuit in today’s skilled

nursing industry.”

Reality: There are compelling reasons why forward-thinking providers are moving towards accreditation now more than ever despite Joint Commission Accreditation

NOT being required for SNFs. Strong industry drivers for SNFs seeking accreditation include:

  • Third party payer mandate requirements (e.g. Illinois Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO) and third party payer mandates in Massachusetts.

  • Higher reimbursement dollars that align accreditation with quality for Medicaid (e.g. Florida).

  • Organizations looking to rebrand (e.g. new owners and executive leadership staff using accreditation readiness efforts for a performance improvement template and/or as a strategy plan for reputation recovery after a disappointing star rating survey).

  • Hospital Post-Acute Network leadership staff continue to openly voice support for Joint Commission Accreditation as they strengthen collaborative relationships with SNFs.

  • “Keeping up with the Jones” mentality in response to accredited organizations seeking a leg up with hospital leadership staff and by utilizing accreditation as differentiator in their brand strategy for census building.

Myth #2: “Let’s power through the accreditation readiness process as quickly as possible.”

Reality: Passing the survey is just one of the benefits experienced by organizations that enter the accreditation readiness process. Organizations that take a broader view than just passing a survey, will experience more significant gains and a longer return on their investment specific to quality, safety, and risk. Achieve Accreditation strongly recommends that organizations allow six to nine months of dedicated preparation time before the initial survey so that the organization can truly benefit from putting in sustainable change as it relates to structures, processes, and outcomes.

Myth #3: “We need to re-write all policies and procedures now that we are planning on seeking Joint Commission Accreditation.”

Reality: Of all the myths this one is the easiest to dispute as it is patently false. The concern with this myth is that it could deter organizations that could otherwise benefit from accreditation from even considering the opportunity. For clarity, The Joint Commission standards and survey process is heavily focused on resident care and the environment of care.

Myth #4: “Our accreditation survey is behind us now. We are accredited!”

Reality: This myth has the potential to be dangerous. The real work of The Joint Commission survey starts AFTER THE SURVEY. While there may be a perceived luxury of time with the three-year resurvey cycle, all accreditation efforts need to be continuously maintained and documented. It is common industry knowledge that The Joint Commission surveyors visit with much higher expectations for compliance in all future resurveys as compared to initial surveys. Achieve Accreditation recommends the following accreditation maintenance strategy POST SURVEY:

  • Create and execute a smart accreditation maintenance plan. This plan should include at a minimum: keeping up with the ongoing annual electronic extranet deadlines and communications with Joint Commission, ongoing standards training for the constant flow of new leadership in our high-turnover industry, staying fully informed on changing standards, intents, and surveyor scoring patterns.

  • Establish an “accreditation project manager.” Protect your time and financial investment by holding firm on the “accreditation project manager’” job scope and measured accountability for the ongoing readiness responsibilities. Be sure that your “accreditation project manager” is not being pulled away to other responsibilities outside the scope of accreditation. The true challenge in achieving success with your accreditation maintenance plan, will be managing your efforts within the context of competing organization priorities.

Kathleen O’Connor, MA President/Founder of Achieve Accreditation is celebrating her 30-year career anniversary assisting skilled nursing providers across the nation with obtaining and maintaining their Joint Commission Accreditation.

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