The Quality Assurance Department Regulations are Just the Starting Point

The Quality Assurance Department is located on the south side of the first floor of Latham Building One. Many of us see QA as the department that oversees regulation and, though that is indeed true, oversight of regulations is only a part of the department’s mission.

“The lens that we really like to look at our work through is that our role is to support our staff in providing the quality of services to the people we support,” Sarah VanSlyke, QA’s director says.

The department works toward helping the agency to stay in compliance with the complex and ever-changing rules, regulations and standards set forth by NYS OPWDD and federal agencies that guide Wildwood. Sarah wants to make sure that isn’t all QA does.

“Throughout our history, we have strove to go beyond just what regulations guide us to do. Really, at Wildwood, regulations are just a starting point when it comes to what we want to accomplish,” Sarah says.

One of QA’s focuses is the concept that each person has the right to maximize their independence. That may be simple on the face of the idea but in practice it can get more complicated and difficult to operationalize. Independence can be frightening for both the people we support, their families, and  the staff.

“We want the people we support to have the chance  to be as independent as possible while remaining as safe as possible,” Sarah says.

There are several ways QA gets involved with Wildwood’s supports. QA regularly conducts program reviews to assure compliance with regulations is in place but in doing reviews they may identify opportunities for improvement aside from regulations. It might mean identifying a different way of doing things that is more efficient and more supportive of independence or it might simply be developing a different way of approaching challenges.

“Suppose we note that someone in a residence left a house unsupervised when that person isn’t cleared for that level of independence. Instead of looking at that as a behavioral problem or a break with regulations we might look at what the situation is telling us,” Sarah says. “It could mean that the person is telling us they’d like some more private time. A plan could be put forth where that person could start with a walk around the block. Then, that could be increased as it is done successfully and safely. Little by little that person could develop more autonomy.”

Other recommendations might come from an incident like a fall or an injury. That might prompt a physical change to the building structure and some safety improvement. It becomes a true opportunity for improvement in the supports Wildwood does.

Changing the conceptual framework of how supports are provided is part of what QA does. That means ongoing training and discussion with all levels of staff on best practices, policy and procedures and really, in how stuff works, day in and day out.

“In addition to reviews and recommendations, we also lead trainings to get staff to look at what they want to accomplish, how they are doing it and what it means to each individual,” Sarah says. “Above all, we want the people we support to be helped in creating the life they want.

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