When Patrick Stapleton became chief executive of the venerable Sherrill House nursing home in 2003, he had one tough act to follow when he took over for longtime long-term-care executive Don Powell.
Not only was Stapleton replacing Powell, who had led the not-for-profit facility in Boston for 35 years, he was stepping into the second year of a five-year, $35 million construction project that totally remade the 96-year-old institution into a comprehensive nursing and rehabilitation center.
But with Powell staying on as construction manager, the native Bostonian took charge and guided the facility through a difficult transition. Powell, who retired in 2004, remains a part-time consultant. He is like a father to me, Stapleton says.
This past February, Stapleton breathed a sigh of relief when construction was finally completedadding 30 beds and 40,000 square feet to the facility. The biggest challenge was building the facility while still occupying it, he says.
Sherrill House now offers 196 beds in two 49-bed long-term-care units, one 49-bed unit for Alzheimers and dementia patients, and a 49-bed unit for short-term rehabilitation patients.
The short-term rehab unit was Stapletons idea. There was a need in the community, and these patients are higher-acuity, higher-reimbursement and higher-margin, he says.
In 2006, Sherrill House became one of only 12 long-term-care centers in the U.S. recognized with a Step II National Quality Award from the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living.
We have a wonderfully supportive board and a committed staff, Stapleton says. I like having the freedom as an entrepreneur. We dont take a cookie-cutter approach. We can try things, and I am allowed to be flexible.
For example, Sherrill House was the first nursing home in Boston to place liaisons in every Boston hospital to expedite admissions of patients requiring rehabilitation services.
A clinical nurse does a chart review and screening on individual patients. Using a BlackBerry, we now can make a decision on accepting patients in minutes rather than hours, he says.
Stapletons interest in healthcare management started during college where he majored in sociology at Salem (Mass.) State College. I thought about law school, but I saw that as far less interactive. Healthcare allowed me to be in direct contact with people in need, he says.
After Stapleton finished his graduate degree in healthcare administration at Simmons College in Boston, he worked on an assignment for a consulting firm at a nursing home. I fell in love with being in charge of a facility, he says.