RIDGEFIELD, Conn. -- Sometimes, the best way for businesses to move forward is to step back. That’s precisely what happened with the Ridgefield Visiting Nurse Association, whose foresight to evaluate and plan a few years before its 100th anniversary now has it poised for another century of service to a vast community in need of medical, rehabilitation and nutritional services.
Last February, RVNA moved into a new 22,000-square-foot facility, the Center for Exceptional Care, at 27 Governor St. that allowed the 103-year-old nonprofit to expand its services in disease management and prevention, nutrition education and counseling, physical therapy, and caregiver support.
- Who : Ridgefield Visiting Nurse Association
- What : In the past year, Ridgefield VNA opened a new Center for Exceptional Care and a new rehabilitation center
- Did you know: Ridgefield VNA serves patients in 28 communities, fro Greenwich to New Milford
- Learn more: http://ridgefieldvna.org/
The new facility gives RVNA patients and clients, who hail from 28 communities stretching from Greenwich to New Milford, a one-stop shopping resource to treat nearly every medical, wellness or rehabilitation need. The facility offers the most comprehensive range of services of any home health and community health care organization in the region.
The new structure and expanded services came about from planning, according to President and CEO Theresa Santoro. When the agency started to make plans to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2014, it also took a hard look at its organization and the changing healthcare landscape.
“We asked ourselves how can we be a viable nonprofit for the next 100 years,’’ said Santoro, who has led the organization since 2007. “We looked at ourselves internally. We did a thorough evaluation of the mission driven programs we offer, and we decided to move into areas where people have a greater need. We wanted patients to be self-empowered in caring for themselves as they live longer and age-in-place.”
The recently opened rehabilitation center on the lower level of the Center for Exceptional Care is an important component to the comprehensive services offered by RVNA. While not part of the original plan, the organization realized quickly after its move to Governor Street that it needed to add more space for rehabilitation.
“The intention was to save that space for future growth,’’ Santoro said. “We were providing physical therapy in a much smaller space on the main level. We realized we were growing out of that space pretty quickly, and we knew we wanted to offer additional rehabilitation services, such as occupational therapy and speech therapy on an out-patient basis. We are so pleased by the immediate response to the larger center. We knew that adding additional space for out-patient rehabilitation services would help patients recuperate and recover faster as well as add a necessary element to the continuum of care.”
Santoro said the new rehabilitation center, known as Rehab by RVNA, is unique in that it provides physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy in one outpatient facility. It also offers alternative therapies, such as massage and Reiki.
The Center for Exceptional Care also houses a teaching kitchen, frequently used by the RVNA registered dietitian for counseling and group classes, that can be utilized by the Rehab by RVNA occupational therapist to help patients re-learn activities of daily living.
“We’re thrilled to have this new rehabilitation center,’’ Santoro said. “Many patients benefit greatly from having all three therapy disciplines in one out-patient center. It is an innovative community-based facility, and to the best of my knowledge, I don’t think there’s another like it in Fairfield County.”
Santoro credited the RVNA Board of Directors for helping identify what the communities served by RVNA would need in the ever-changing healthcare landscape. Their foresight and planning decisions put RVNA ahead of the curve in the regional medical community.
“We have a brilliant, committed team,’’ Santoro said. “We got together and did a lot of thinking. We looked at our organization from the top down and the bottom up. We knew we were up against a changing landscape and we needed to make changes. We needed to grow and expand our services. We needed to invest in our clinicians to make sure they had the tools, skills and competencies to serve people in their homes. We did a wonderful job of kicking the tires and making sure they were in alignment with where healthcare was going.”
Santoro deflected credit to her board, but as she enters her 10th year as its leader she has been one of the driving forces behind RVNA's growth and innovations. Under her leadership, the agency has grown significantly, with the number of patients receiving healthcare at home and the size of the healthcare at home staff both doubling in the last five years. The Center for Exceptional Care also boasts a skills training area, where clinicians can learn and practice advanced procedures. There is also a lending library for the community, babysitting classes for young people, and support groups for people who provide care to their loved ones.
Santoro possesses a unique blend of business savvy with a nurse’s tender heart. She wants every patient to receive the care they deserve.
“The way we’re able to care for patients is one of the things I’m most proud of,’’ Santoro said. “Through a dedicated staff of top-notch clinicians, we’re able to serve patients in a meaningful way. There is nothing more important than that. I look around at the way our staff has grown, and we’ve come so far. It feels wonderful, and I’m incredibly proud.”
More changes are likely in healthcare, particularly under a new administration and a new Congress. Whatever changes are in store, Santoro, her board and her team at RVNA feel ready to meet the healthcare needs of the communities RVNA serves.
“I think regardless of the business, non-profit or for-profit, you want to ensure you are running an efficient high-quality organization and that’s what I seek to do every day,’’ Santoro said. “We now have a larger budget with more expenses. We’re grateful to our donors, who are critical to our success. Are there more challenges ahead of us? Sure, we will always see additional health care needs that we want to address, but with our team and our donors, we’re ready to do everything we can for the communities we serve.”
Click here for more information about RVNA.