If dedicated, compassionate administrators who work together as a team is the key to high-quality nursing home care, then a whole bunch of new doors are about to be unlocked at Payson Care Center.
Ellen Stewart, executive director of the 123-resident facility, has just brought on board a new director of nursing, Lucinda Campbell, and a new medical director, Dr. Mike Lowe.
And when Lowe says all three of them are "singing the same song from the same page," his colleagues nod in emphatic agreement.
"It's a perfect fit, more so than any of the other jobs I've had not just because we all have a love of Payson and the residents, but because there is now a homogeneity here at Payson Care Center; everyone works together really well," Campbell said. "This is just a great team."
One of the elements that pulls this trio together, Campbell said, is that "We strongly feel that we are the premiere long-term health care provider in this community, and we want the community to realize that, too. That's not some kind of marketing ploy; we know we're the best."
Her boss agreed.
"The care is only going to get better, and the facility is going to get better, we all three have the same goal and we're going there," Stewart said. "Now we have the right team."
Campbell, a native of Wisconsin, launched her medical career by becoming a staff nurse at Payson Regional Medical Center in 1988, when it was the Lewis R. Pyle Memorial Hospital, and served as the facility's director of nursing from 1990 to 1995.
After moving on to work as clinical director of the Valley-based Home Health Agency, followed by a stint at a 100-bed hospital in Texas, a homesick Campbell returned to Payson last year and worked on staff at Manzanita Manor.
"My mother asked me when I first became a director of nursing if I was going to miss the one-on-one (of nursing)," Campbell recalled. "My answer then is the same as it would be now, after 15 years of being a director of nursing in one environment or another: I can impact more people in a leadership role. More people can benefit from the decisions I make.
"I'm a warrior all the way," Campbell said, "and, whatever you need, I'll fight for you ... It makes me feel important to know there's a task I can perform for someone. That makes this a real feel-good job."
Campbell's vision for Payson Care center, she said, is "organization, efficiency and cost-effectiveness. We have a stewardship not only to this facility, but also to our company, to make sure that we provide high-quality and compassionate care, cost-contained. We can do that, and we will do that."
"Lucinda's reputation superseded her," said Stewart of PCC's director of nurses. "I felt very fortunate when she came in, and as time has progressed, I've seen everything that everyone else has seen. We're on the same page, we know where we're headed, we have the same warped sense of humor, and our love of the residents. So we're in this together."
Doctor in the house
Payson Care Center's new medical director, Dr. Mike Lowe, is a 32-year-old Illinois transplant who completed medical school at Ohio State University and began a family practice in Florence, South Carolina.
His life was forever altered, however, by a vacation drive through Payson two years ago. After a single visit to PRMC, he was invited into the hospital's practice, and later joined Dr. Ali Askari's local family practice.
"One of the reasons I came to Payson was for the nursing homes," Lowe says. "I have good education in my residency with nursing home care. It was a big part of my learning and it's something I just love to do. Not many doctors spend a lot of time on nursing home care, so people are very grateful when you do. You get a lot of good will from it. If you treat grandma well, everyone loves you and the world will knock on your door.
"Also, the mode of care is a little different," the doctor says. "I'm not here to necessarily do everything I possibly can to prolong their lives; I'm here to make their lives as enjoyable as possible. I like that better in a lot of ways. It's a more tactile thing. If I'm treating someone for their hypertension, how much longer did I make them live? Well, I don't know. But I can come in on a daily basis and see if they're smiling more today than they were yesterday."
Unlike past doctors who have held his current position, Lowe says he will spend two full days per week in the PCC building.
"By doing that, I can be more responsive to the patients and their families and hopefully improve the level of care they receive," Lowe says.
Stewart is honored to have the young doctor tending to the residents of Payson Care Center.
"I've been courting Dr. Lowe since before he was out of residency," she said. "He truly has been such a joy to work with. I never hesitate to call him for any reason, and he's always right there."
What such teamwork boils down to, Campbell observed, is the philosophy which was behind the founding of Payson Care Center.
"This may sound like the company line, but it's true: When Forrest Preston started this company, he said that he knew what he wanted in a nursing home so he bought one. Now he owns many nursing homes, and they're all run the way he wants them.
"It's the same thing with the three of us," Campbell said. "We know what we want, we know what's right.