Accreditation benefits having ‘ripple effect’ throughout Piapot FN

June 5, 2017

ZEHNER, SASK. – The Piapot Health Centre has fewer than 10 staff. But its role in the life and wellness of the Piapot First Nation is enormous.

Judy Sugar, Piapot’s Health Director, credits Accreditation Canada (AC)’s assessment process with enabling the centre to become more organized and more in tune with the needs of the community it serves.

“It provided a good snapshot of what our community was interested in and what their health conditions were,” Sugar said. “We were able to find out their needs.”

A better organized health centre to better serve the community

Sugar says the accreditation process helped Piapot establish its own governance policies as well as different initiatives to monitor, evaluate and improve its services to clients. She notes that as a result of the accreditation survey process, questionnaires and data systems were implemented to find out exactly what health centre clients needed. “It provided a good snapshot of what our community was interested in and what their health conditions were,” Sugar says. “We were able to find out their needs.”

Through the health centre’s accreditation process, Sugar says clients were able to weigh in on determinants of health such as housing, water and sanitation. She notes that other departments in the community followed the health centre’s lead on various initiatives, including infection control. “The school has adopted our infection control program and so has our Band Office,” Sugar says. “It’s had a ripple effect on our community.”

Sugar notes that prior to AC’s survey process, quality improvement initiatives weren’t necessarily being put forward by the health centre because it had nothing to compare itself to. “Quality improvement was probably the newest thing for us,” she said. “Before the accreditation process, we didn’t really have any benchmarks.”

Piapot’s accreditation journey began in 2010. Since being accredited in 2012, Sugar says the centre now has five years’ worth of client feedback and data. “We have actual documentation. We know exactly what chronic conditions our clients have and we have a better idea of what our community needs.”

Empowered staff

Sugar says when Piapot first considered accreditation, people were intimidated.

She views the accreditation process as one that makes an organization stronger from within. Preparing for the survey was done in house, with existing resources, to get full buy-in. “It had to be something we believed in,” she says.

Sugar recalls her colleagues taking on the accreditation process in full force and notes that Piapot staff members have also gone beyond simply reporting, instead working to implement a full range of quality improvement initiatives.

Piapot has two staff members in charge of reporting on infection control. These staff members, however, also report on issues related to building maintenance and safety, she said. “They have some really great ways of reporting now,” Sugar says. “We didn’t always have that before accreditation.”

Sugar adds that since becoming accredited, Piapot is more confident in its dealings with Health Canada and its Tribal Council. Staff members now take more initiative; working on their own but also, engaging with each other to develop more quality improvement initiatives. “Accreditation has strengthened our organization,” Sugar says.

Advice about accreditation

The rewards of accreditation outweigh the challenges, Sugar says. She notes that the health centre was initially intimidated by AC’s accreditation process, but she says Piapot became a stronger, better organization because of it. “Accreditation has helped us so very much and we have nothing but praise for what we learned from it.”

Sugar has this advice for organizations looking to become accredited:

  • Talk to others who have been through the process
  • Share valuable information with your entire staff from the community health nurse to the custodian
  • Treat each member of your team as an equal in the accreditation process
  • Build commitment from everyone

Sugar says accreditation improved Piapot’s internal and external communications. “It has helped us to grow as a team,” she said. “We’ve learned about different health practices, and we’ve reached a new level of health care delivery for our community members.”

Piapot’s continuous improvement journey includes its next survey, scheduled for April 2018. Sugar says centre staff are meeting monthly to get prepared. “Our next step is to aim for exemplary standing,” she says.

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