Prioritizing quality care and career opportunities

Thousands of San Diegans, across multiple generations, have benefited from St. Paul’s Senior Services’ vision of a world where seniors have options for where and how they live.

Having operated a skilled nursing facility since 1984, St. Paul’s has extensive experience providing care for seniors. In 2009, St. Paul’s sought to align practices in its facilities with a “resident-centered” model of care. This culture change was supported by the Akaloa Program at Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, where St. Paul’s has been a grantee partner of the organization since 1996. MACP’s founder, Margaret Cargill, saw some of the challenges related to aging as she observed friends, family members, and peers struggle to meet their needs for care.

In recent years, St. Paul’s has opened several new all-inclusive healthcare facilities and tripled the number of employees providing these services across seven sites. This growth created a need to maintain consistent, high quality-of-care standards across all its facilities and programs.

Adapting to Growth

As a solution to its growing needs, St. Paul’s leveraged the long-term funding partnership with MACP to create a new Corporate Nurse position in 2022. Karen Mitchell-Keels was hired as the inaugural leader in the role, which will oversee infection control, nurse training, as well as develop strong clinical quality improvement programs. Additionally, Karen will work with nursing leadership to drive corporate-wide nursing standards, policies, and practices.

“It is an honor to have the opportunity to develop a nursing department and work with talented and motivated clinical staff. I will lead the efforts to establish a nursing culture that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion within our organization. I will oversee the implementation of innovative patient and resident care by developing a shared governance framework for our healthcare workers and clinical staff.”

— Karen Mitchell-Keels, St. Paul’s first Corporate Nurse

Tending to Growth

Also on the growth horizon for St. Paul’s are hopes to build a larger “CNA to RN” pipeline.  

The organization is working on comprehensive career advancement options to increase education for nurses and aides through a “stepped approach.” Karen also chairs the advisory committee for the Leading Age California, Gateway-In Project, where St. Paul’s has sent 5 employees, with another 15 to attend in the future. This initiative seeks to add 2,700 CNAs to the California workforce. Students in the project receive several services, such as childcare, transportation, ESL training, professional scrubs, textbooks, mentoring, and more.  

The Gateway-In Project lays a crucial foundation for a clinical track to help employees with a high school degree earn clinical certifications for licensure.   

Through these culture changes, shifting models of care, and career advancement opportunities, St. Paul’s will continue to provide consistent and quality resident-centered care to the hundreds of San Diego seniors in their community.