By Sherry Neal, RN – BC, CDDN
Quality – what is it? Most people will say they can’t describe or define it, but they know it when they see it. Do you know what quality is? Do you practice continuous quality improvement in your daily work? Does your agency have a formal program? Whew, that’s a lot of questions, let’s see if we can answer some of them.
“Quality” as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary is “a degree of excellence’. In the BusinessDictionary.com it is, “a measure of excellence or a state of being free from defects, deficiencies and significant variations”. Depending on our own personal standards, excellence is nebulous and may be very individualized. What we are striving for is excellence in providing supports to individuals who are physically or mentally disabled or challenged. We want both quality of life and quality of health. If we work hard enough and stay aware, we can achieve both.
In all our everyday activities, whether at work or in our personal lives, we should always practice continuous quality improvement. Being better today than yesterday is sometimes a struggle. Maybe you’re happy with the status quo and don’t want to change. There is an old saying that, “no one likes change except a baby with a dirty diaper”. Change is difficult, it takes us out of our comfort zones sometimes. But if you make small, slow changes, it can be easy and fun.
The first thing to practicing quality improvement is to recognize that change is needed. Some agencies are still not practicing person centered thinking or using current terminology. I know that politically-correct terms seem to alter daily, but you can always ask a person what they wish to be called, or how they want to be addressed. If you are still using the terminology ‘mental retardation’, it is time for a change. The correct overall categorical terminology is ‘intellectually disabled’ or ‘intellectually and developmentally disabled’. There is a federal law that mandates that terminology replaces the term ‘mental retardation’ with ‘intellectual disability’ (federal statute, Public Law 111-256, Rosa’s law.) You can start your quality change by teaching others about this wording. Is speaking out to others not your thing? Well, start with one person and tell them. Then read up on why it is important. Then tell a group of two people, then continue to spread the word and grow from there.
Another quality improvement may be looking at meal practices. Is there a nutritious meal planned? Does it meet the current ‘my plate’ guidelines? If not, how can you change that? What are ways that you can make eating salads and vegetables more appealing? Read and research to get some ideas and tips. Many of you are on Facebook or Pinterest or Twitter. Follow some social media pages related to nutrition. Save or write down some of the recipes posted. For example, I found an excellent recipe for pizza crust using cauliflower and parmesan cheese. A coworker’s four-year-old child HATES vegetables and yet ate almost a whole pizza with this crust. Someone hate salads? Add tomatoes and yellow or orange peppers strips to liven it up- adding color makes food more appealing. Research the ‘my plate’ guidelines at https://www.choosemyplate.gov/.
“In all our everyday activities, whether at work or in our personal lives, we should always practice continuous quality improvement.”
These are just some examples but there are many ways you can take steps to improve the quality of your own work. Be the first and set the example! Step up and make the necessary changes to improve, even if it may be uncomfortable.