When recovery from a serious injury or illness requires residential care, Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Las Vegas is there to help patients regain their independence and quality of life. In the age of COVID, their work has become even more crucial.
Inpatient rehabilitation makes a tremendous amount of difference in the way we recover from serious illness or injury. The combination of round-the-clock medical care with customized intensive therapies to build physical and cognitive strength, relearn basic movements and functions, and develop strategies for independence is crucial to rebuilding life after trauma. Building that essential bridge is the core mission of Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Las Vegas.
Nationwide, Encompass Health serves over 348,000 patients annually with a network of 137 hospitals in 39 states and Puerto Rico. Encompass Health of Las Vegas is composed of three hospitals serving the communities in the Las Vegas-Henderson catchment area, offering tailored programs designed to get people back to their lives with the fullest possible degree of independence.
With the onset of COVID-19, that continuum of care is taking on heightened relevance. CEO Tij von Nieda estimated that, a year into the crisis, roughly 25 to 35% of their admissions are patients recovering from the virus and the deleterious effects of even short-term ICU stays. “When you've been on a ventilator and in acute care, your muscles and all of the support structure for breathing and moving starts atrophying quickly. While a couple of weeks in the ICU might not seem like a big deal on paper, the loss of conditioning means that you have to build your strength back up just to breathe regularly again. You’ll find that suddenly it’s difficult to do simple things like sitting up or getting dressed and that weakness increases the risk of falls and other complications,” he explained.
“Moving forward, I think post-COVID care is going to be a huge part of rehabilitation because as a lot of these patients are recovering they're not necessarily out of the woods once they're ready to transfer from the ICU. They really need a hospital level of care from a medical side that we can provide, and then require a facility that is set up to challenge them from a therapeutic side and really invest a lot of time in their rehabilitation.”
Von Nieda began his career at Encompass Health of Las Vegas as a speech-language pathologist. “I wanted to be part of a company that was leading the industry from a clinical care standpoint,” he said. At the time he had no aspirations of entering the C-suite.
Seeing leadership potential in the young clinician, then-CEO Michael Ward took interest and put him on track to build his skill sets and develop the quality care mindset that Encompass Health is known for. After participating in the organization’s two-year future CEO program, von Nieda took over for Ward when he left Las Vegas to run another Encompass Health hospital.
Coming from a clinical specialty in the hospital where he worked the floor helped von Nieda connect with staff, especially when promoting quality initiatives and developing processes that work well for clinical teams. “It's been an incredible advantage to have that to fall back on. I can relate to the clinical teams and understand what their challenges are because I was dealing with many of those things as I was coming up myself.”
Three months into his new role, the pandemic came calling.
“It’s been an incredible team effort from Day One,” he stressed. The home office in Birmingham, Ala., assembled their best and brightest in a task force, offering 24/7 guidance so leaders could leverage best practices in their fight to help critically ill patients recover. “It's a monumental effort to pull something together like that, and that team has been working nonstop since COVID started. That kind of support gives you a level of reassurance and confidence in what you’re doing, and that is critical if you're going to adjust at the speed needed to address the crisis.
“It’s been incredibly impressive and gratifying to watch our team’s response. They’ve been so courageous and resilient from the get-go. The team put in countless hours retrofitting 40% of our beds and building new supply rooms and repurposing different offices in the hospital so we could accommodate these patients. I can’t thank them enough.”
Rather than assigning clinicians to care for patients with COVID, von Nieda and his team instead asked for volunteers. “We felt like if we started that way and set the right tone it would build the right culture and confidence around treating COVID-19. Well, that decision might look great on paper, but in the back of our minds we couldn’t help thinking, ‘What if nobody volunteers?’” It was a needless worry.
“There haven’t been many times in my life where I've witnessed truly brave or courageous things, but people being willing to go into the unknown with quiet confidence and courage to do what they felt was right to help people and our community through something we never expected to be dealing with tells you all you need to know about the character of the staff that work for us and what type of organization Encompass Health is. We attract people that have that strength of character and selflessness. It's an incredible thing and makes us proud to be part of that team and part of a company that really takes that seriously.”
That underlying strength comes from the organization's core values, which stress setting new standards of rehabilitative care, leading with empathy, doing the right thing over the easy thing, and staying positive and strong as a unified organism devoted to improving life after life-changing illness or injury. “It's easy to be cynical when you see companies with vision statements and core values and you wonder if they actually live up to them,” he mused. “With Encompass Health the answer to that is absolutely yes.”
As the nation’s population continues to age, Encompass Health is set to become a national leader providing the kind of blended medical and rehabilitative care that elderly patients require. “We have invested so much in inpatient rehabilitation because it’s a level of care that can expand up or down as healthcare continues to evolve,” he said.
“We also want to make sure that this growing wave of Medicare patients understands the options that are available to them, and knows we can advocate for them, partner with them, and we can make sure they get to the right place to get the best care possible,” he said. “That's a really daunting thing, and I think that'll be a challenge for us moving forward, but one that we're well-positioned to meet.”
As a national leader of post-acute care, Encompass Health offers facility-based and home-based patient care through our network of inpatient rehabilitation hospitals, home health agencies and hospice agencies. We are committed to delivering high-quality, cost-effective care across the post-acute continuum. Driven by a set of shared values, Encompass Health is the result of the union between HealthSouth Corporation and Encompass Home Health & Hospice.
Our approach to post-acute care sets us apart. We firmly believe that every success starts with our dedicated team of professionals, so we make sure they are empowered with the tools they need to help our patients be successful. Innovative technologies, advanced therapies, customized treatment plans, coordinated care teams – these are all part of our promise to deliver the highest level of care.
1250 South Valley View Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89102