By John Patrick Diaz, DOR/DPT, CEEAA, RAC-CT, Magnolia Post Acute Care, El Cajon, CA

My journey with Ensign started five years ago when my current ED, Matt Oldroyd (shoutout for recently achieving the title of CEO) gave me the opportunity to be part of his team. Parkside was part of the huge acquisition that occurred in 2014 here in San Diego, where part of the transition was to hire new staff to complement previous staff who stayed on. He gave me a start date, which I begged to delay for a week as I was planning to attend the American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) that was to be held in Indianapolis. This has been an annual commitment that I have made since being a member of the association and the Academy of Geriatrics. When he allowed me to start after my trip, this gave me the reassurance that I did make the right decision, considering that I would be working with an ED who supports my passion for being a lifelong learner in pursuit of clinical excellence.

Every year since then, I have consistently stayed true to my commitment, but this year almost didn’t happen as the annual surveys for the facilities that I have been supporting were delayed. We only had a week left before the 2020 CSM, and I was torn if I would still attend the event or just cancel my trip altogether. We do have very strong and supportive partners, with one of our therapists being experienced who could step up on short notice. I told Stew, ED at Magnolia, on a Monday that I wished for them to come this week so we could get it done and start working on the goals that we were planning for this year. Lo and behold, Tuesday morning comes and I get nonstop text messages indicating that the surveyors have arrived at not one but two of the facilities that I have been supporting. The next message I got was from Stew who said, “Well, you got your wish. LOL.” I replied to him, “I know!!! We got this. This is the start of our journey for the FLAG.” It was such a relief, but a rewarding experience to have simultaneous surveys and to get triple check done in a week.

I got the chance to attend the event the following week, and being at such a gathering never gets old. Networking and meeting old peers, students, presenters/speakers, authors, vendors, etc. with a common goal of learning just makes it so rewarding. This year’s event was more meaningful to me, as the Academy of Geriatrics rebranded and created a video depicting the importance of the population we serve. With the changes that have occurred since October 2019, we all have tried to embrace and change our mindset on how we can meet the needs of our long-term population. I firmly believe that we all have the foundation to make a difference and be influential in making aging an intentional and meaningful experience for our patients. Gone are the days where aging was considered as something passive with the stigma of, “Once I enter the nursing home, that’s it for me.”

With our mission of transforming and dignifying post-acute care in the eyes of the world, gray does matter and we have to help our residents age on. I encourage everyone that if you have that opportunity to be active with your own organizations, please take it. Whether you are a regular member, part of a committee or even a special interest group (SIG), you will still learn a lot and it will show in your practice. The benefits of having the passion for learning are endless. Having different titles at the end of your name is not what’s important, but what matters most is the information you get (and how you use and share the information in your practice) in earning such credentials and certifications. Be open to change. Don’t limit yourself to what you learn in books, because we have to realize that it takes three to five years to even publish a book, and once we get ahold of it, the information may no longer be up to date. Who would have thought that teaching an 80-year-old to plank is now being practiced, or using a pillow under the knee of a patient with a TKR is now recommended in the acute phase of a patient’s recovery?

As movement specialists, make a difference in helping the community and change our mindset to realize that gray does matter. Let’s all come together to develop a passion for learning.