Drive up scenic Alabama Highway 9 in the Appalachian foothills and you’ll see a point of pride for the small town of Piedmont: the local nursing home. Piedmont Health Care Center sits just off the highway nestled beside Duggar Mountain.

With 135 employees, the center is one of the largest employers in the town of 4,600 residents. Those employees are known for compassion and providing high quality nursing care. That’s why it was no surprise Piedmont Health Care Center recently earned a “deficiency free” survey – the center’s sixth since 1994. The “deficiency free” designation signifies the center meets all the state and federal requirements for nursing homes.

Sandra Keener

“We have results like this because everyone works together,” Piedmont Health Care Center Administrator Sandra Keener said. “You can’t focus on your department and let that be the only department you worry about. Each department depends on the other, so we’ve got to work together. Simply put, the care we give our residents shows through in the results of our surveys.”

Reaching deficiency free status is difficult. Nursing homes operate 24/7 and must meet specific government criteria in more than 140 areas while caring for individuals who have multiple medical and physical needs. On their most recent visit to Piedmont Health Care Center, a team of three surveyors from the Alabama Department of Public Health spent four days pouring over every aspect of the nursing home and interviewing residents, family members and staff members.

“They’re very meticulous and ask a lot of questions because they’re covering everything that happened since they inspected the facility last year,” Keener said of the surveyors. “Our staff knows that we have to keep constantly check things. Because it is working fine today, doesn’t mean it won’t need adjusting tomorrow. We work and adjust all year long to make sure we’re following the regulations and providing excellent care for our residents.”

According to the American Health Care Association, only 9.7% of Alabama’s 227 nursing homes were declared “deficiency free” as of September 30, 2018. Keener credits much of Piedmont Health Care Center’s success to her staff keeping open lines of communication with family members of the up to 91 people who live there. Each nurse is assigned a list of residents and is responsible for contacting that person’s family each month to discuss the resident’s medical care and other needs.

“Because of this, families know they can call us any time they have a question,” Keener explained. “It is so important to keep that line of communication open. My door is open, and our residents, families and staff know they can come in and talk to me too. These conversations allow us to address needs quickly and build trust among our staff and the families.”