By: Joe Devore

The Governor’s Gold Seal for Excellence is awarded to only three to four percent of nursing facilities in the state of Florida. In fact, to be eligible for this recognition, facilities must have a track record of 30 months of outstanding state surveys — and only about eight percent of facilities do.

The survey test is only the first of five measures that the state puts forth. Another requirement includes outstanding quality measures, such as lack of resident falls, skin integrity, degree of reported pain, decrease in functional level, and significant weight loss or gain. The Gold Seal Award was established in 1999, during Governor Jeb Bush’s first term. Its main purpose is to recognize nursing facilities that demonstrate excellence in long-term care over a sustained period, promote stability of  the industry and facilitate the physical, social, and emotional well-being of nursing facility residents.” The award lasts a period of two years, after which facilities must reapply.

For Plymouth Harbor, attaining the Gold Seal isn’t just about receiving the recognition, but about validating that the Smith Care Center truly operates in a resident-centered fashion, with compassionate staff, first-rate resources, and sound operational methods.

The 2015 list of eligible nursing facilities was posted on the Gold Seal website on August 13, Plymouth Harbor was extremely pleased to be included on the list. With step one of five completed, we moved on to preparing and submitting a detailed application — all within one month’s time. The application included the following topics and information:

  • Information confirming the financial stability of Plymouth Harbor.
  • Proof of resident satisfaction, where we cited the outstanding results from the 2015 Holleran survey.
  • Evidence that the Smith Care Center works hard to address any resident concerns.
  • Evidence of community involvement, where we recognized employee efforts, including our quarterly Keep Sarasota County Beautiful  roadside cleanups, participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, monthly volunteering at All Faiths Food Bank, and our ongoing upcycling program with the Learning Cottage Preschool.
  • Information confirming a stable workforce, where we were thrilled to report stability that’s notably higher than the requested benchmark.
  • Evidence that we adequately address staff education.
  • A review of our best practices, including all staff training for working with residents with dementia, how to create the best first hour and day for new residents, palliative care, our staff skills fair, and our new OnBoard employee wellness program.

After submitting our 1,200-page application in early September, we anxiously awaited the next step. On October 20, our application was officially accepted and we moved on to the third requirement — a conference call with all members of the Gold Seal Panel for Excellence. We again advanced to the next step, and began preparing for an onsite visit with a panel member. This occurred on November 11, and lasted several hours.

The visit was more than satisfactory, and we proceeded to the final step in the process — an official presentation to the Gold Seal Panel for Excellence, where all those in the running make their final pitch to receive the award. The panel occurred on December 8, and we elected to put together a compelling and moving video (shown above) that showed first-hand why the Smith Care Center was deserving of this prestigious distinction. We captured the stories, care, and dedication seen each and every day at Smith Care, and after reviewing, the panel unanimously voted to recommend to Governor Scott that the Smith Care Center be recognized as a Gold Seal skilled nursing facility.

The designation was made official on January 8, 2016 by Governor Scott. Currently, only 26 of the approximately 690 nursing facilities in the state of Florida hold this award.