Acting administrator helps make a difference in nursing home

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2008 Healthcare Hero
Helen P. Verceles
Administrative Provider

No one is more familiar with a profession than the people who work their way up the chain of command after years of working in the trenches. That's the full spectrum of experience Helen Verceles brings to Oswego's Pontiac Nursing Home, where she's currently serving as acting administrator.

"She is hands on, even with her current role as acting administrator," says Theresa Moshier, assistant administrator. "She is always working closely with her nurses and constantly teaching and educating them on how to provide the best care for both our long and short term care residents."

The positive outcomes of Vereceles's administration aren't just an abstraction. During her tenure as acting administrator, Verceles aggressively targeted a preventable ailment that commonly afflicts residents of nursing homes: dangerous bedsores or pressure ulcers. The incidences of high-risk pressure ulcers at Pontiac have plummeted since the fourth quarter of 2006. The national average of high-risk patients suffering from these sores over the same period hovered above 12 percent, the state average, around 14 percent. The highest incidence of pressure ulcers at Pontiac during that time was 4.7 percent. In every other quarter it was zero.

Verceles says she took a holistic approach to the problem. One tactic introduced by Verceles was the "no brief" system, which concentrates on reducing incontinence in patients, a risk factor for dermatitis and bed sores. To make certain no symptoms escaped notice, Verceles educated the entirety of her staff on recognizing, treating and following-up on symptoms. Certified nurse assistants, for example, were utilized in the battle against the bed sores, empowered as part of Pontiac's skin care team and integrated into the care planning process.
Today, Pontiac receives referrals from Syracuse hospitals for patients suffering from decubitus ulcers.

Verceles's nursing experience has taken her across the world: she looked after patients in hospitals in the Philippines, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi before coming to the city of Oswego. In 1996, while working at a Kuwaiti hospital called Al-Sabah, Verceles was honored with the Most Valuable CCU Nurse recognition by the nation's Department of Health.

Verceles worked in Oswego Hospital until 2002, when she left for a director of nursing position at Pontiac. She is certified by the National Alliance of Wound Care, a resident assessment coordinator for the American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordinators and was a delegate to the 2007 National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel in San Antonio, TX.

"I respect her (for) her heart as she gives of herself," says Moshier. "That is not a quality we see that much these days."
(By Chris Motola)