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A winning profile

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SELLS, Ariz. – What makes for a great workplace? Ask Lee Olitzky, director of the Tohono O’odham Nursing Care Authority: “Respect each employee’s individual needs, foster open communication, encourage innovative ideas, and provide opportunities for training and education.”

The Wall Street Journal announced the facility is one of 35 finalists for its 2009 Top Small Workplaces list

It’s a winning formula. The nation’s Archie Hendricks Sr. Skilled Nursing Facility received the 2008 Highest Honors Award from the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, and the 2008 National Indian Health Board Local Impact Award.

And now, The Wall Street Journal announced that, of 650 competitors, the facility is one of 35 finalists for the 15 top spots on its 2009 Top Small Workplaces list, a collaborative of WSJ and Winning Workplaces. The list features exceptional small employers in the U.S., which include private, nonprofit and publicly held organizations.

Winners will be announced and profiled in WSJ’s Sept. 28 Report on Small Business, which spotlights these top businesses with workplace environments that encourage collegiality, professional growth, and provide an atmosphere and benefits that make employees want to stay. Winners will then be honored Oct. 1 at a conference in Chicago.


Staff members at the Tohono O’odham Nursing Care Authority spend time with residents of the Archie Hendricks Sr. Nursing Facility.

In researching workplace characteristics of high performance organizations Winning Workplaces, a nonprofit committed to helping small and mid-size organizations found that certain traits – trust, respect and fairness, open communications, rewards and recognition, learning and development, teamwork and involvement, and work/life balance, make for a great workplace. They teamed up with WSJ three years ago to identify exceptional organizations for an annual ranking.

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What makes the Tohono O’odham 60-bed facility exceptional? It employs more than 130 people, 80 percent of whom are Native American. They provide on-site specialized training and continuing education, send staff to skill development programs and professional workshops, and offer flexible schedules, competitive wages and extensive fringe benefits. Its 32-unit staff housing is at full occupancy.

The facility gives the nation’s elders a home and care by O’odham on their land in the Sonoran Desert region. “We are one of but a few tribally-owned and operated skilled nursing care facilities in the U.S.,” Olitzky said. “We embrace resident centered care for our residents, all Native American.” The facility has a five-star rating from Medicare and Medicaid.

Prior to opening the center, tribal elders traveled two hours to Tucson or Phoenix for nursing home care. “They were cut off from family and friends,” Olitzky said. “They received care from those who often could not understand what was needed.” The facility provides care for post hospital visits, specialized wounds and dementia, and its medical director has privileges at the IHS Hospital in Sells, just 30 minutes away.

In 2007, the nation authority determined that residents of the nursing home and the community needed culturally sensitive and relevant hospice care. They formed the Tohono O’odham Hospice; one of just a few Native American-owned and


The Archie Hendricks Sr. Nursing Facility, named for a member of the founding planning committee.

operated hospices.

The center is named after a member of the founding planning committee who dedicated his life to serving his family and the Nation. Hendricks passed away in 1995. The board recently completed a new master plan; which outlines the next step which will be a type of assisted living for elders. “This is an example of the forward thinking approach the board has taken for the care and planning of elders,” Olitzky said.