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Pioneering Culture Change in Little Rock

PHI's Kathy McCollett reviews her experiences at the the 9th Annual Pioneer Network Conference that took place in mid-August

Kathy McCollett - PHI
09/03/2009

The weather was warm and the sun was bright in the sky as we landed in Little Rock, Arkansas, on August 12 for the 9th Annual Pioneer Network Conference.

PHI staff Susan Misiorski, Cean Eppelheimer, and I were there to add to our understanding of what it meant to be part of the culture change community and to be sure to leave that renewed understanding with others we met through our training sessions, at our booth, and as we spoke to the many who came to join that community this year.

We were welcomed both by the Pioneers at the Airport and later by the hospitality of the kind and generous people of Little Rock. Everywhere there was a buzz of conversation, "What sessions are you attending? Are you presenting? What new literature is there? I'd love to catch up with you. Can we talk at the break? Have you seen… ?" Everyone knew there were only a couple of days to take it all in.

On Wednesday, Sue Misiorski, Mary Tess Crotty, and I were scheduled to facilitate one of the full-day pre-conference sessions, "Building Person-Centered Relationships: The Skills behind the Philosophy" while Cean Eppelheimer attended the state coalitions meeting. The sessions to choose from included everything from "The Household Model Business Case" and "Great Lighting for Senior Environments" to "Geriatric Nurse Leadership Academy" and "The Glen-Zadeck Canine Comrades Pawsing to Heal Program."

There was truly something for everyone. People came from 45 states, all with an interest in creating a culture that honors and values elders and building relationships that create community. Some went on the "Businar" trip to the Pleasant Valley Healthcare Center where they toured the first GREEN HOUSE® in Arkansas. Others enjoyed the Clinton Library tour.

Many notable speakers and experienced leaders in the field spoke at the 90 concurrent sessions offered on Thursday and Friday. Sue Misiorski facilitated a meeting of nurses to discuss how there is commonality between those concerned about clinical issues and regulations and those who are trying to move forward with culture change in their organizations. Cean Eppelheimer and I conducted a session for organizational leaders that introduced them to core skills necessary to supporting staff while also holding them accountable.

Dr. Richard Taylor was the Carter Williams Legacy Fund honoree for his work to "help others see persons with dementia as people first."

Dr. Bill Thomas, the founder of the Eden Alternative, developer of the Green House model, and the president of the Center for Growing and Becoming, Inc., received the first annual Picker Award for Excellence at the Friday luncheon plenary.

It was clear to all of us that the Culture Change movement has become a close-knit community of which we are proud to be a part. I was impressed by the level of collaboration and sharing that I saw and heard in each conversation. The presenters as well as the attendees demonstrated a love for the vision and a commitment to the mission of making sure that "the person always comes before the task."

As we left, we knew that those who were able to attend this year's conference left Little Rock informed, emboldened, and eager to return to their organizations to implement culture change in its many applications.

For us it was a joy to be in the Culture Change community for those few days, relishing each tidbit of new information and hearing the wonderful stories of successes that seemed to be on everyone's lips.

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