Sunrise Hill director to receive award


Marcy McNeal, Administrator of Sunrise Hill Care Center, Traer, has been named a Rising Star in the McKnight’s Women of Distinction awards, a joint program of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News and McKnight’s Senior Living national publications.

The program, in its third year, recognizes women who have made significant contributions to the senior living or skilled nursing professions or who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to the fields. Rising Stars are women who are younger than 40 or have fewer than 15 years in the industry.

Nominations were judged by an external panel of industry experts. All winners will be honored at a virtual awards celebration on May 18. An educational forum will follow on May 19.

McNeal has been working in long-term care for the past 12 years, first starting as a certified nursing assistant and after obtaining a bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University and completing her long-term care administration certification through DMACC.

McNeal credits Scott Berger who she worked with at Granger Nursing and Rehab during the clinical hours portion of her training as a mentor early in her career.

After working as an administrator and as a consultant in the long-term care industry in Iowa, McNeal was recruited to take over as administrator at Sunrise Hill Care Center in May of 2019. Less than after her arrival the COVID-19 pandemic set in, bringing life threatening challenges to long-term care centers all across the country.

“We were fortunate that we were able to avoid COVID for quite an extended period of time,” McNeal said. “Our first case was in September while many of our peers were experiencing outbreaks in April, May and June. So we’re very fortunate in that regard, but it’s been difficult to see the impact COVID had on residents as well as staff.”

McNeal said a number of residents at her center died due to the virus this year and that even a staff member was hospitalized with coronavirus complications.

“It was heartbreaking every day,” McNeal said.

Beyond the obvious public health threat of the virus, McNeal said it was a hard year for residents who experienced drastic change in their living environment.

“Our team at Sunrise Hill has always stepped up and made additional efforts to try and make the best of the situation that we had,” McNeal said.

As COVID-19 positivity numbers and hospitalizations have been steadily declining over the past several weeks and vaccines have begun rolling out in Iowa, McNeal is hopeful for the days ahead.

Recently the dining hall was reopened for residents to beginning eating in a congregate setting, with a rotation schedule in place to still maintain a measure of social distancing.

McNeal also said they are following guidance from the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services organization in determining when to reopen for resident visitation.

“The numbers suggest to us very strongly that we will be opening up for regular indoor visitation soon, within the next several weeks,” McNeal said.

She cautioned that the reopening plans could be derailed if COVID-19 numbers were to again start to climb, but that her optimism is growing given the number of weeks that positive coronavirus cases have been in decline.

Despite the hardships that Sunrise Hill has experienced in the last year, there have been successes achieved by the staff when it came time for inspection and auditing of the center’s services and procedures.

In 2020 Sunrise Hill was one of 36 care centers in Iowa to receive a Bronze Quality Award by the American Health Care Association. Sunrise Hill was the only care center in Tama County to receive a Bronze Award this year while only two care centers in the state receiving quality awards above the bronze rating.

McNeal also said Sunrise Hill received a deficiency-free survey from the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals in 2020, their first such survey achieved in the past 16 years.

“When I talk with family about the challenges and struggles of working in long-term care during COVID, my message has remained the same,” McNeal said. “This past year really led our leadership team to trust each other and to value each other. It has improved so many aspects of our working relationships together. You know, trauma and crisis pull us all together. For me having only been here less than a year when COVID started, that relationship really blossomed further having experienced this time together. It solidified the decision for me to purchase my home in Traer and validating that this is where I want to be.”