A Look At The Admissions Process Within Athena Health Care Systems
May 14th through the 20th is National Skilled Nursing Care Week, or Nursing Home Week, which highlights the long-term care profession and the necessary services they provide to their communities. Athena Health Care Systems serve residents in 38 communities across Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts with programs and services expanding across Southern New England. An often underlooked part of healthcare in a nursing home setting is the admissions process. If you ever find yourself, or a family member or friend in need of skilled nursing care and rehabilitation following a discharge from the hospital, the Athena admissions teams are here to guide you in that process.
Megan Wanczyk, LPN and Director of Admissions and Business Development for Athena Health Care Systems, leads all the admissions teams across the three states. Over the years, Wanczyk has recruited a team of compassionate admissions professionals that bring various backgrounds to the role including but not limited to, nurses, licensed nursing home administrators, and occupational therapists.
Candy Novoa, Sara Lindo, and Anna Sumler, LPN, are Regional Directors of Admissions for the company. In their roles, they help the admissions teams at the managed centers in their states review referrals, support the patient and their families and determine if each center is prepared or can prepare to properly admit the individual in need.
“First, we’re looking at just the clinical: the basic history and physical of the patient, trying to figure out what was the reason they were admitted into the hospital. Then we have to take into consideration the financial aspect and ensure that we are in contract with the insurance that they have,” said Sumler, the Regional Admissions Director in Connecticut.
The admissions process isn’t as simple as a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Other parts of the process include reviewing diagnosis and also making sure the center can meet the needs of the individual, as well as completing a federally mandated pre-admission screening to help determine what healthcare setting is best for the individual and the services they require.
The concern for the Athena team isn’t filling beds, but instead making sure people are getting the care they need wherever it may be.
The admissions teams are also there to provide support and information to the families during this time by offering tours of the center, giving them resources on the admission process and sharing tips of what to bring in for your loved ones. Many times the admissions teams are dealing with families or responsible parties who are also dealing with this process for the first time. Wanczyk said all the admissions teams treat each referral with empathy and compassion to determine the right service and location for the individual.
In Massachusetts, many Athena-managed centers are in contract to accept individuals with substance use disorders or SUD. For nearly eight years, Athena-managed centers in Massachusetts have been meeting the needs of individuals with SUDs who also require skilled nursing and rehabilitation care following an exacerbation from a medical condition or surgery.
To care for individuals with SUD diagnosis, Novoa said, “We have in-house counselors, addiction counseling, we also have aftercare coordinators that follow the residents. We have some of our clinics that do methadone. We’re going to look at a person the same. They’re going to have a medical reason to come in.”
Communication and teamwork is an important part of the process, which includes the center’s administrators to the directors of nursing and beyond. Everyone needs to be on the same page as to what the individual needs and if the center is capable of performing those needs. If a resident requires a specific type of treatment, the team has to make sure there are caregivers who can perform the treatment. Pending referrals are reviewed daily between all department heads to ensure continuity of care is delivered from their discharge to the hospital to admission into an Athena-managed center.
“Our admission teams rely on the teamwork from all the departments in our buildings as each department plays such a critical role as soon as a new resident enters our centers. We are lucky to have the ability to offer so many services ranging from expert nursing care, seven days of activities to various meal options to meet the needs of everyone’s diet,” Wancyzk said.
The chain of communication is also important outside the Athena network. Most referrals come from hospitals and the admissions teams want the hospitals to know they are there to help. There are also many conversations between the admissions teams and the families.
Each Athena-managed center in the three states also has an admission team in place, which includes admissions coordinators, admission directors, and clinical liaisons who are often on the road connecting with the community. The teamwork continues from the admissions process to when the person moves into the center, and making the individual and their families feel at home with the staff providing the care and companionship.
Wanczyk has been with the company since 2016 starting as the Admissions Director at MeadowBrook of Granby in Connecticut. In 2018, she was promoted to Director of Admissions for Connecticut and was promoted again to manage admissions across all three states in 2020.
The three regional directors each come with their own experience that has set them up to succeed in their roles.
Sumler has been with Athena since 2005. She joined as an LPN at Sheriden Woods Health Care Center in Bristol. After moving out of state for a year, she returned to the center and eventually began filling in in the admissions department. She was then moved to Admissions Director at Countryside Manor of Bristol, then was promoted to a regional role overseeing both Bristol centers. In early 2023, she became the Regional Director of Admissions for Connecticut.
Lindo has been with the company for a decade. Joining as the Admissions Director at Oakland Grove Health Care Center in Woonsocket, she then was promoted to a regional role in 2019.
“I may not be the one to work every single referral, but I certainly can get them the answers from whoever it is that I need to,” she said.
Novoa was hired as the Admissions Director at Parsons Hill Rehabilitation & Health Care Center in Worcester in 2015. She became an Admissions Liaison in 2019 and took on her current role near the end of 2021.
How do they cover a whole state? Whether in a small state like Rhode Island or a larger one like Massachusetts, connections in the communities are important. Lindo said healthcare events are a big part of that. She recently attended the 12th Annual Caregiver’s Journey Conference in Warwick, Rhode Island. Events like these are places to connect with other healthcare professionals and build upon already-established relationships. Being a part of their community is also a way the Athena team builds relationships.
For anybody looking into a nursing home, the admissions team said it’s important to imagine yourself or your loved one living there. The team works hard to create a space where they would send their own loved ones. While quality care is most important, Lindo encourages people to ask about what activities happen at the center to keep the residents active and engaged.
The process can be confusing and complicated for those who haven’t experienced it yet. The Athena Health Care Systems team is here to answer any questions and help in any way. Our management office can be reached at 860-751-3900. You can also view all our programs and services here as well as see where are centers are located here.
For state specific admissions questions, email Anna Sumler for Connecticut at ASumler@AthenaHealthcCare.com, Sara Lindo for Rhode Island at SLindo@AthenaHealthCare.com, and Candy Novoa for Massachusetts at CNovoa@AthenaHealthCare.com.