Resident Satisfaction and the Survey Says?

By Richard M. Walko, PhD
Quality Management Coordinator

Surveys say a lot actually. Because of our strong commitment to resident satisfaction, Sierra Tucson conducts a lot of surveys. Years ago, each resident was offered one general satisfaction survey to fill out right before completing his or her stay. Today, with an eye toward knowing, in real time, how satisfied our residents are, we have implemented an additional survey.

At about two weeks into a resident’s stay, he or she is invited to complete a mid-term survey that is general, yet comprehensive. It consists of several items to be scored with a numerical rating on a scale ranging from poor to excellent, along with some open-ended, write-in items. Because the survey takes place in the middle of one’s stay, the feedback we receive allows us to be more responsive, and sometimes, right then and there, address an issue of dissatisfaction. In addition, we’re set up to conduct more detailed or “drill-down” surveys, if we need to know more specifically about an issue that is creating dissatisfaction.

Recently, we saw a decline in satisfaction among residents related generally to their daily schedules. To identify the specific issues, we quickly created and implemented a drill-down survey. The results were interesting. A while back, residents expressed the desire for additional therapies to be included in their treatment plans. As each resident’s program is individualized to best treat his or her specific issues, our therapists and medical providers worked with our care planners to determine ways of increasing the number of appointments and activities. Over time, we were able to fill residents’ schedules with many more services. But, as with many things in life, balance is critical. The responses we received in our more recent drill-down surveys were that residents wanted more free time. They felt like they had so much to do with all the individual meetings, group meetings, and activities, not to mention everyday responsibilities like eating and sleeping, that they didn’t have time to simply process it all. Many also indicated they wanted more time for exercise, and maybe a little more leisure time, too. We responded by lightening up their schedules in order to regain the balance.

At Sierra Tucson, we are always concerned with providing the best treatment for each resident, but that philosophy is all about treating the whole person. Balancing the various therapies and modalities with nutrition, sleep, relaxation, and individual and group processing, as well as taking into consideration the philosophical/spiritual needs of each resident, can be a challenge. The methods we have established for surveying are critical to finding that balance. The feedback we receive allows us to act quickly and adjust each individual’s schedule to combine the best therapeutic practices with relaxation and enjoyment. As a result, the resident satisfaction scores have increased significantly in all schedule-related areas.

The items on our mid-term survey are kept constant, so we can see long-term trends. Over time, we’ve seen a change in the dietary preferences of our residents. More and more residents now indicate a preference for vegetarian or gluten-free options. To meet that demand, Sierra Tucson’s kitchen staff has started to introduce new entrées and snacks, and even beverages. Ever tried a kale smoothie? OK, the verdict may still be out on that one, but we have received very positive feedback on one particular change that was made to the dining experience itself. Every Friday evening, instead of the usual dinner hours during which residents eat when they want, everyone gathers together for a delightful dinner served family-style. It changes the entire atmosphere of the dining experience and creates a tremendous sense of community.

It’s always nice to see positive responses and high scores. We love that. We routinely receive encouraging feedback about our facility and the beauty of the surrounding desert and mountains. We are also pleased to report that one of the top-scoring items is our residents’ feeling of safety. Nonetheless, we are most proud that their comments overwhelmingly state that the best thing about Sierra Tucson is the people. We believe that’s the way care should be … all about the people.