Celebrating Excellence: 2023 Advancing Quality Award Winners

Every year, team members eagerly anticipate the announcement of the recipients of the Advancing Quality Award, and the wait is finally over. The Advancing Quality Award is an annual honor recognizing Hillcrest team members who demonstrate outstanding performance supporting the mission and quality goals, and who exemplify the values of the Hillcrest Way. Each recipient receives a magnificent trophy and a $2,500 cash prize.

The winners are nominated by their peers, and applications are reviewed by internal and external judges. Each applicant is evaluated based on factors such as advancing the mission to enhance the lives of aging adults, progressing quality goals and other additional achievements, including community service and educational accomplishments. Two winners are selected: one in a leadership or licensed role and one from all other candidates.

We are delighted to announce this year’s 2023 Advancing Quality Award Winners: Betsy, physical therapist at Hillcrest Millard, and Michelle, personal care assistant at Hillcrest Mable Rose. We had the opportunity to interview the winners about what this award means to them and to hear some inspiring stories from their fellow team members.

Q: What does receiving the AQA mean to you personally and professionally?

A: Betsy – Receiving the AQA reinforces to me that Hillcrest values the contributions of its employees not only as team members but as leaders in the community. I am proud to work for a health care company that recognizes employees in this manner, which is rare in this industry. It is also valuable to be supported as a lifelong learner. Innovate Rehab & Wellness has facilitated my journey in receiving advanced certifications in the field of geriatric physical therapy over the past five years.

A: Michelle – Winning the Advancing Quality Award means so much to me. I try to live my life, inside and outside of work, with the utmost integrity. My faith is the backbone of who I am. I am here to live and love like Jesus. I treat our residents and their families as if they were my own family. I see these residents and their families more than I see my own family…they become family. I celebrate victories with them, and I mourn their loss as well. I have always said, “if a death becomes easy for you, it’s time to find a new job. The last one hurts just as much as the first…you just learn to cope differently.”

Q: Can you describe your journey here at Hillcrest?

A: Betsy –I began my career with Hillcrest in April of 2017, working as a physical therapist for one year at Hillcrest Health & Rehab before transitioning to the new Hillcrest Millard location. In 2019, I earned my board certification in geriatric physical therapy and in 2023 became ICE certified in the modern management of the older adult. I have served on various task forces and have been a clinical instructor and mentor to students and team members. In June 2022, I co-founded an older adult community fitness program called UBStronger 55+ at a local gym in Millard. The flexibility with my Hillcrest employment has allowed me to grow this prevention-focused program to improve the lives of older adults.

A: Michelle – I moved to Nebraska in January 2010. After a friend of my dad’s, now my best friend, had suggested CNA/Med Aide work at Hillcrest, I obtained both, and upon her referral, was hired at Hillcrest Mable Rose in June 2010. Within my first year at HMR, I was promoted to health services support assistant. After a year of this, I realized I truly loved direct resident care and stepped back down to PCA. During my time at HSSA my computer skills were acknowledged, and I was requested to assist with the HealthMEDX build. I worked alongside Hillcrest leaders, building forms, assisting in companywide training and transferring all the current information over to HealthMEDX. I then accepted a job at the home office. After getting married, I was offered a position at the casino (I was working there part time). I couldn’t refuse, and I really missed the residents, so I left the home office and returned to Mable Rose. After COVID hit in early 2020, the casino shut down (as did the rest of world except “essential” jobs). I started working full time to make sure the residents were taken care of. Our amazing team (especially our recreation department) worked so hard to ensure the residents’ physical and emotional needs were met. This was the hardest year of my career. Seeing the emotional turmoil that the residents and their families went through, having to spend holidays between plated glass windows, not being able to hug their parents was heartbreaking. This took a huge toll on all our residents, families and team members, but it was during this time that I built the strongest bonds with our residents because we were all they physically had. Once families were invited back in, my bond with the families grew as well. In 2022, I again took the health services support assistant role but was still working the floor often. My husband and I volunteered, doing crafts, calling bingo and Christmas caroling throughout my time at Mable Rose, so the residents formed a bond with him as well. In Nov./Dec. 2022, we found out my husband had stage 4 cancer and would need at least 12 months of immunotherapy. I knew at that time that my focus needed to be at home, so I reluctantly stepped down from the HSSA position to take care of my husband. During this time, the residents and their families became my strength, constantly checking on us and even providing meals after his surgery. Thankfully, they were there for me in my hardest days and also when we celebrated his (hopefully) last treatment in Dec. 2023. My faith has paved my path throughout my life and my career. It speaks to who I am and how I work. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourself.” (Phil. 2:3).

Q: Can you describe Betsy and what she brings to Innovate Rehab & Wellness?

A: Raegan, Regional Director of Rehab for Innovate Rehab & Wellness – Betsy is a dynamic physical therapist, highly committed to learning and growing! She generously shares the knowledge she gains with her peers. More importantly, though, she assists her peers with knowledge translation – she helps them take the new information learned in a course or new evidence from a journal and assists them in understanding how to apply it to their patients. She has presented numerous formal and informal educational presentations to team members. Betsy is passionate about strength training for the older adult. She founded and leads an exercise class for people over the age of 55 that is changing lives. She brings that passion to combat ageism in older adults to Hillcrest every day. Her drive and passion is irreplaceable!

Q: Can you describe Michelle and what she brings to Hillcrest Mable Rose?

A: Angie, Administrator at Hillcrest Mable Rose – We are grateful at Hillcrest Mable Rose to have a tenured team member such as Michelle. She brings so much experience and a passion to care for others. Because of this, she is able to individualize the needs of the residents she cares for and meet them where they are. We are thankful for the knowledge she has and [the] way she helps Mable Rose to be the best we can be!

Betsy and Michelle embody talent and dedication, enriching the Hillcrest team with their contributions. Congratulations to both of them for their exceptional work in enhancing the lives of aging adults.