October is Continuing Care Month in Nova Scotia. Really though, at the R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home on Pleasant Street in Antigonish, every month is continuing care month.
And a big part of ‘care’ is safety; the safety of everyone at the home.
“The industry itself is a physically and emotionally demanding job, so we spend a lot of time on safety; getting staff to slow down, partner up and really know the residents well, and the resident’s abilities,” R.K. director of clinical services Terry MacIntyre said.
He noted safety is a core value at the home and that the emphasis and focus by staff is, quite literally, paying dividends.
In a release from the R.K., it was noted they recently received their 2020 employer assessment rates from Workers Compensation Board (WCB) Nova Scotia and due to their ongoing commitment and focus on safety, the nursing home will pay less than the average industry rate for nursing homes in Nova Scotia.
“The industry rate for facilities similar to the R.K. has been set at $5.98 and we feel that because of our safety programs, our staff commitment to safety and the partnerships we’ve established, our WCB premium has been set at $5.05 per $100 of payroll of staff salaries which equates to a significant savings for the facility,” R.K. CEO Michelle Thompson said.
MacIntyre said it’s important to know and understand how exactly the WCB merit was accomplished.
“We looked at that and said, how did we get here? What did we do to achieve this? So what we did is we did a quick visual assessment and the components of it are pretty cool,” he said.
In a power-point type of chart, with the WCB merit of 93 ¢ less than the industry rate highlighted in a centre, these components are listed surrounding the centre circle: human resource return to work program; excellent partners (physio clinics, WCB, Aware Nova Scotia); staffing (paid return to work, replacing sick staff); Foundation funding; culture change (staff compassion and safety); staff commitment to safety; rehab team and development of resident safe handling, lifting and transfer program; and joint occupational health and safety committee reviewing all staff injuries.
“Eight caveats together and from that, each of them have contributed to our merit system,” MacIntyre said, adding “because one injury is too many.”
He said R.K. staff have bought into it “by working with safety at the forefront.”
“And in terms of training, we’ve partnered with Aware NS and the WCB in developing an excellent resident safe handling, lifting and transfer program that requires annual certification and we review all staff injuries with our joint occupational health and safety committee with the goal of preventing such an injury from happening again.
“Sit down, look at trends, how we can prevent them, and talk to staff who were involved to make sure it doesn’t happen again … as best we can,” he added.
Both he and Thompson talked about the important contribution of the R.K. Nursing Home Foundation in helping the safety goals.
“We have a ceiling lift in every room; top of the line transfer equipment,” MacIntyre said. “And the reason we have that – the Department of Health has been wonderful to finance us – but the foundation pushes us over the top. We have fantastic support from them; so we have great equipment and it’s always available.”
“Their commitment to the R.K. has enabled us to purchase the equipment that is essential in ensuring our residents and staff are safe while performing the many lifts and transfer that happen here every day,” Thompson said.
They talked more about transfers, noting the home recently completed an exercise to determine, approximately, how many are carried out on average a year. The number was 250,656 assisted transfers.
“On admission and as needs change, each resident is assessed to determine their ability to transfer safely from lying down to standing and walking,” occupational therapist Amy MacDonald said. “Some residents require a ceiling lift while others are safe to transfer independently.”
Veteran continuing care assistants Angela Chisholm and Lorraine Pelly commented on the number of transfers and helpful equipment.
“When I think back 20 years ago when we didn’t have this equipment, it’s a wonder we survived,” Chisholm said.
“Having the necessary transfer and lifting equipment in each care area is absolutely essential to the safety of both the resident and staff,” Pelly added.
Human resource co-ordinator Jacque Delorey talked about the training.
“We’ve been successful in having 90 per cent of our nursing staff trained annual in Resident Safe Handling and Lifting, and we’ve also been very successful in training non-nursing staff to assist in transferring our residents,” Delorey said.
“There is no way you can go around this building and not find someone who can help you with a transfer,” MacIntyre added.
For more on Continuing Care Month and an opportunity to share your care story, visit continuingcaremonth.ca.