The sign outside reads Mid Valley Nursing & Rehabilitation. “I see it as a hotel,” said Alice Roel, the licensed nursing facility administrator for the Mercedes facility. “You register and have housekeeping, meals, activities, laundry and transportation provided round the clock with exceptional customer service.”
The state-of-the-art complex, which Touchstone Strategies opened in November 2016, aims for a homey, hospitality ambiance rather than a medical or institutional atmosphere, Roel said. “We blend in with community, because we are here to provide skilled nursing care and long-term care to the Mid Valley/Mercedes area. It’s convenient for families to get here. The location is very good.”
Actually, the location is exceptional because it’s the neighbors that set the 123-bed facility apart from any others in the region. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine’s Family Medicine Residency Program at Knapp Medical Center is immediately to the south and on the east is Med High.
Currently, 12 first- and second-year medical residents (M.D.s who are getting specialized, hands-on training in family practice) make daily rounds of the skilled nursing patients and long-term residents to make sure their needs are being met. “We have an agreement with the medical school that they round here to get the necessary hours to complete their training. It is a huge benefit, absolutely, for us and vice versa. We support each other,” Roel said. Residents work with patients under the supervision of Dr. Miguel Tello.
Mid Valley Nursing has a contract with Mercedes High School to have students in the certified nursing assistant course come there for their hours of hands-on training under an instructor’s supervision. “It is very fortunate we can help them develop skills for nursing or whatever health field they go into. It’s a stepping stone and lays the groundwork for their future,” Roel said. She added they are currently negotiating the details with Med High across the street to begin the same CNA practicum at Mid Valley.
The young trainees have access to mini-nursing stations without computers in the middle of each wing. Everyone uses iPads to document patient contact and data. Despite what the national news reports about caregiver and nurse shortages, Mid Valley has not had problems filling its 100 full- and part-time positions. “We’ve been fortunate that we have been able to staff,” Roel said. Of course, it helps that newly graduated CNAs have already experienced the facility’s work environment.
Mid Valley Nursing’s at-home aura is enhanced by a fireplace, small dining rooms and multiple common areas that look like living rooms. Recessed ceilings and glass-fronted occupational therapy and physical therapy gyms where the on-staff occupational and physical therapy assistants work with patients add a contemporary appeal. The nursing home’s wings, which are identified as neighborhoods – Rancho, Rio, Rodeo and Reyna – converge on the granite-topped nursing station with wheelchair-height access. Other amenities include Wi-Fi, a chapel, hair salon, snacks and menu choices along with private dining and conference areas for families to meet. “Most residents love eating together in the dining room and interacting.”
Given Mid Valley Nursing’s high population with dementia, Roel explained the importance of the entrance interview. “Music contributes to their quality of life. We find out what music they like. We have activities with music.” Residents also have a say in their food preferences and the outings they participate in. Families are encouraged to decorate their rooms of long-term residents. Short-term patients are recovering from strokes, surgeries, illnesses or accidents.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in health care administration, Roel completed 1,000 practicum hours in nursing homes before passing state and federal exams for the LNFA title. She has had an administrator-in-training working with her this year.