For the past twenty-five years, Fee Stubblefield— founder and CEO of The Springs Living based in McMinnville, Oregon—has worked tirelessly to improve the efficiency of long term care organizations. “I’m a fanatic about organizational structure, in theory, how to create organizations and how people work together,” Stubblefield recently said on the LTC Heroes podcast. He talked about Business Management and Leadership Styles in Long-Term Care with host Peter Murphy Lewis:
The Origins of The Springs Living
Stubblefield’s entry into the industry can be attributed to his compassion for his two grandmothers, Esther Short and Lillian Stubblefield. “I remember she made me promise as she got on in age, to never to put her in a nursing home,” said Stubblefield. So he decided to found a long term care organization that did not feel like other nursing homes.
In 1996, Stubblefield launched The Springs Living, a place where he hoped seniors like his grandmother could live with dignity and feel welcome. “We’re there to take care of family and it all started with my grandmother, Lillian,” Stubblefield said.
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COVID and Its Impact on Long Term Care
Things were going smoothly for Stubblefield and his team until the pandemic hit. That is when, like so many other long term care organizations, The Springs Living needed to make major adjustments. He knew that drastic steps would need to be taken to prevent potentially-deadly infection that is particularly dangerous for seniors in long term care. And that meant even greater dedication and stronger leadership in the face of adversity.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced facilities to rethink their approach to care. For devoted leaders like Stubblefield, that was a good thing, as it was a catalyst for change. “COVID separates folks that are looking at [long term care facilities] as just a business model from those who are passionate about what they do every day and are here to take care of their family,” he said. Stubblefield predicted that, in the long-run, the facilities that remain open will be those that are more focused on caring for their residents and their quality of life rather than on profits.
How Leaders Can Move Forward Post-COVID
While COVID restrictions may have been eased, the long-term effects of the virus are still very much being felt. In long term care, staffing shortages have reached the level of a crisis. Not only are some nurses and CNAs refusing to get vaccinated, but even those who remain working in nursing homes are not always available on account of quarantine protocol.
Even with the limited supply of workers in the industry, Stubblefield advises other leaders to be particular when hiring and look for quality over quantity, as this will better improve census numbers in the long run. “We focus on trying to grow our quality,” said Stubblefield. “At The Springs Living, we look for three things: knowledge, skills, and the ability to do the job right.”
Stubblefield shared with Lewis that the hiring process should be organic, and facilities should look for individuals that fit their culture. Problematic individuals, meanwhile, will negatively affect the quality of care for all residents in a facility. “If you have an employee that is disengaged and is creating an environment that’s not great, don’t ignore it,” said Stubblefield. “Deal with those little problems. The quality of your employees, and their commitment to your values, dictates the quality of care, and the happiness of residents in the facility.”
It is also important for organizations to not stray from what makes them unique during these difficult times. Rather, they must continue to identify and highlight differentiators, according to Stubblefield. “Organizations are like people,” said Stubblefield. “There’s the DNA, the history, the time, the experience, the point of view, and the market needs all of us. It needs different things for different people.” By staying true to who you are, he argues, you will be able to serve a particular subset of seniors.