By Victoria Kertz | California Business Journal
“You don’t build a house without its foundation. You don’t build a hospital without its nurses.”
This is profoundly true for Myra May, a registered nurse who not only became president of one of the premier long-term care facility companies in Southern California, but also the owner.
At New Vista Health Services, May runs her team like a true nurse: efficiently, knowledgeably, and with extraordinary care.
Growing up in Wisconsin, May started working to help her family at the age of 11. Nursing, she says, was the best of all possible occupations in the area, so she studied it and found that she was a natural leader. She would later earn a Masters in Administration, a law degree, and completed the OPM (Owner/President Management) Program at Harvard Business School, a four year member of Vistage, a peer advisory group of CEOs, among other executive educational programs.
“I’ve always had a fire in the belly to be the best that I can be,” she explains of her many educational pursuits. It was her time at Harvard that helped her to face challenges with a global mindset and changed her thinking completely. Vistage, meanwhile, has been invaluable to her in making daily leadership decisions and innovations.
Founded in 1997, New Vista has grown from one Dementia Care facility to four with a total of 400 beds and 500 employees. The company features Memory Care Units, Assisted Living Centers and Subacute Units, which serves patients who come from the Intensive Care Unit and are likely using a tracheostomy or ventilator.
May believes that Subacute Units, licensed to take care of high acuity patients such as ventilators and organ transplants, are a growth sector in long-term care — but growth doesn’t automatically mean “bigger.”
She also predicts that “hospitals in the next five years will transition to a surgical environment” and that facilities like New Vista “we will be the ‘New Hospital’ of the future and the Assisted Living environment will be the ‘New Nursing Home.’”
While New Vista will expand over the next few years, May says it is possible to grow “too big.” Other well-known companies have “imploded” under their own size, she deftly points out. Large medical campuses, she believes, “are growing too big to support financially.
“They lose track of the patient as an individual,” she adds, explaining that success is not measured in size, but in the satisfaction of the patients and their families.
One of New Vista’s assisted living centers has been rated No. 1 for four consecutive years and staff members regularly receive four and five star-level recognition from state and federal agencies.
“People want their loved ones to be treated at a facility like New Vista because we put the patient first,” May says. “Our staff is incredibly dedicated, well-trained and most have been here for five years or more.”
May’s staff has been repeatedly honored for safely caring for high-acuity patients, maintaining low infection rates, and most notably, developing one of the first water management programs to prevent Legionnaires Disease.
At the executive level, May attributes much of New Vista’s success to her team’s ability to embrace of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” principles by Stephen R. Covey.
Setting goals and listening intently to patients, their families and facility leaders has created an environment that May says works wonderfully and effectively for her business.
“We hire our leadership with the expectation that they will fit into the culture first,” May says. “Then comes experience. We used to do it quite the opposite and had to look at what was going right and what was going wrong. We value differences. It has increased our effectiveness to the degree that we get better results.”
If there is one thing her team does agree on, it’s achieving results through a dedicated staff that focuses on patients. In the “7 Habits” tradition, the staff is trained to communicate with the patient and their family about attainable goals.
“We communicate care goals to the family and patient quickly so that they understand what happened from acute care admission to discharge,” May says.
It’s vital to answer questions and be sure the patient’s family understands the situation. Not many people fully understand the health care system — particularly the billing process. Most patients think that if they have insurance, everything is paid for.
It is not.
“We encourage our staff to take the extra time and explain everything from billing and insurance to the patient’s medical condition and expected future,” May says. “Admission to a long-term care facility is daunting and we are overly conscious to reassure all those involved of how everything functions – and I mean everything from A to Z.”
As the midterm elections loom, healthcare remains one of the highest concerns of voters. There are no easy solutions, but May feels long-term care facilities are the way of the future. Smaller, she thinks, is better. Specialized facilities and home services will be growth sectors within the healthcare vertical for years, she believes.
Healthcare, after all, is the No. 1 employer in the U.S., “so the opportunities are multiple,” May says.
As for her own thoughts on healthcare, it’s all about preventative care.
“Build your system on wellness,” she says. “What’s great is that insurance companies are beginning to offer wellness programs and incentives.”
So, as the nation ages and diseases like cancer and diabetes take a toll on healthcare spending, “do what you can to stay safe and healthy,” she concludes. “It’s practical, cost-effective, and just might help you live a longer, healthier life.”
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