CITIZEN OF THE YEAR: Sandra Keener

Sandra Keener

Piedmont Healthcare Center’s administrator, Sandra Keener, often refers to patients and employees in the assisted living and nursing facility she oversees as “my patients” and “my employees.” She takes patient care and employee education personally.

She has led the award-winning center since 1994. The nursing facility has 91 beds and 130 employees; and the assisted living facility has 18-bed and 14 employees. Through the years, it has received five deficiency-free surveys, two Best Practice Awards by Alabama Nursing Home, two years of facility participation in Alabama’s Advancing Excellence program, and facility participation during Alabama’s pilot program of Nursing Home Quality Initiative.

Keener is a Piedmont native who worked in the medical industry from age 16, a year before she graduated from Piedmont High School at age 17.

“I worked at the old Piedmont Hospital through the VICA program, which allowed students to work and attend school,” Keener said.

Her title was unit secretary. After graduation she worked in the business office filing insurance and serving as office manager until the hospital closed. The company that managed the nursing home, Preferred Health Services, asked Keener to train to become its administrator.

“It took a year’s training to be eligible to take the administrator’s test,” Keener said.

That was 30 years ago, and it was not the last time Keener furthered her studies. She studied the Administrator-In-Training program through Preferred Health Services, a business-management certification through Jacksonville State University, and became certified through the Quality Risk Management Specialist Long-term Care. Also, she obtained a bachelor-of-science degree in 2001 from Trinity University and College.

Her motivation to stay abreast of education was seeing how the field was changing.

“We saw that more patients were having dementia,” Keener said. “We looked at hiring a trainer.”

She hired one for not only the center’s staff, but also for family members of the patients, volunteers, and the staff of other nursing facilities who wanted to better understand dementia.

“We saw a lot of people coming from the hospital with wound problems,” Keener said.

She hired a certified wound-care specialist in order to get the center prepared for the increase in need.

In addition, Keener realized more hospitals were keeping patients only long enough to place them on the road to recovery and then releasing them to nursing facilities where they can complete healing.

Through the years, she has encouraged families to understand that the role of how nursing facilities has changed.

Keener strives to instill vision in employees. She encourages each of them to become educated in their field through the appropriate certifications.

All of her efforts help the center provide the best care possible for the patients and assist families. She also takes pride that most of the employees are hired from the City of Piedmont.

Keener and her husband J.R. Keener, who works as purchasing cirector at the center, have two children, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. She hopes to stay at least five more years in her current job before retirement.

“In the meantime,” Keener said, “I am always going to be looking around the corner to see what else comes from the center for Medicare service.”

Contact Sherry at sherrykug@hotmail.com