Denali Center in Fairbanks receives award for exceptional care

Published: Dec. 14, 2022 at 4:53 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Denali Center in Fairbanks has been recognized this year as being in the top 20% of nursing homes in the nation.

Earlier this October, they received a bronze award from the American Health Care Association in partnership with the Alaska Hospital and Healthcare Association.

Staff traveled to Nashville, Tennessee to attend the Agency for Health Care Administration Conference. There they picked up the award and brought it back to Fairbanks.

The Denali Center was the only facility in the state to receive this award.

“It is about the journey for quality, and that an organization is committed to building a strong quality program,” said Tina Rein, who works as the Administrator for the Center.

The Denali Center is a 90-bed facility providing long-term, short-term, and memory care. Currently, there are roughly 60 beds occupied - and although they have more beds than occupants, for the safety of the residents and staffing they only fill to 75% capacity.

Rein said their focus is not only on falls and safety, but creating a life worth living for the residents.

She mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic had a big impact on staffing. During that time there were several staff who moved or retired.

Keeping up with staff to care for residents was a hurdle they had to figure out. The facility placed focus on training staff. and in 2022 there were 22 new Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) graduates from their facility-based program.

“We were just recognized for really just kind of being ahead of the ball and trying to find solutions for some of our challenges today,” Rein said. “We recognized that we needed to recruit CNAs back into the organization, and to do that we are looking at a career ladder for those folks.”

The program is expanding according to Rein, partnering with Alaska Pacific University to establish a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) program that could develop into a bridge program for LPNs to continue their education to become registered nurses. “So again, [when] we say we are creating a life worth living, we want a life worth living not only for the residents but for caretakers that work here. We want them to have the ability to grow,” Rein said.

The Denali Center also received a 5-star rating on Nursing Home Compare, an informational website operated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services - placing The Denali Center in the top 20% of nursing homes in the nation.

“Part of that journey was to really get recognized as some of the best,” Rein continued, “and then being able to share our successes with other facilities with the state, and participate in National Committees, and work on improving long-term care.”

As the Denali Center expands its services into the new year, eight LPN students will begin their journey starting in January.