William Pond Interview
This is file 24, cycle 4. Today’s date is Sept. 9, 2019. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing William Pond who is the new head administrator of Noble Horizons. He is going to talk about his job responsibilities, the campus and anything else he wants to talk about. But first we are going to start with the hard stuff…
JM:What is your name?
BP:Thanks you, hello, my name is William Pond.
JM:I would like you to tell me about your educational background after high school and your various degrees.
BP:I have a Bachelor’s Degree in science going back to American International College and graduated from there in 1982. From there I took a number of years off and went back to school to work on a Master’s Degree at Central Connecticut, but I did not complete the degree. I was involved in long term care at the time. Others in the industry suggested that I explore the opportunities in long term health care which I did at the University of Connecticut. I received my certificate in Long Term Health Care Administration in 1997. I have been doing that since.
JM:What is your career path as far as facilities are concerned?
BP:I have been involved with a number of for profit organizations since that time I have been involved with health care since the mid 1980’s. I had worked as an administrator or executive director in a number of different nursing homes and related companies that specialized in long term health care. They were very much bottom line oriented. It was not until I came here to Noble that I was able to realize the reason that I got involved in industry in the first place. I have been involved in a number of facilities in the state of Connecticut including Athena, Affinity that is no longer in existence, Kindred and now Church Homes. I worked in a 100 bed unit in Southington as one of my first jobs as administrator. I wanted to get involved in the operations of care facilities: I was a trouble shooter, trying to fix certain homes that were financially challenged, to create strong teams and to do the best that we could to turn some of these programs around.
JM:Who was the gentleman who got you interested in Noble?
BP:The CEO and President of Noble Horizons is Patrick Gilland. Pat and I go back a number of years. It was at that time when I was unsure about a career in health care. I was in the Southington facility as a cognitive rehabilitation therapist working in the head trauma unit. Pat Gilland and I had a conversation about my career path in the mid 1990’s. He asked if I would be interested in overseeing a nursing home in the Stamford area. I agreed to do so. It was the first time I had explored an opportunity from that perspective, and the rest in history. With his support I went on to get my license and started on the path. I was in a facility in Waterbury when I received a phone call out of the blue from Pat Gilland. “Bill, I have a great opportunity for you to interview for a position up in Salisbury.” That is how I heard about
the Noble Horizons’ opening. Pat Gilland was in a large part responsible for that. I always appreciate that support and confidence.
JM:It makes a great deal of difference, doesn’t it?
BP:It really does: it makes a big difference.
JM:When did you actually take over at Noble>
BP:I took over at Noble in January of 2018. Now as we are speaking it is now September of 2019, it seems like yesterday. Over a year and a half I set foot here on a winter’s day in January. It has been a very positive experience. With a new role and a certain amount of transition and expectations and questions, a lot of things were all part of that, but today the whole experience have been incredibly beneficial to my role at this point.
JM:What is the size in acreage of the campus?
BP:Noble is roughly 140-150 acres that incorporates a skilled nursing facility, assisted living facility that provides old age assistance to members of our community, 50 independent cottages which provide independent living that are dotted throughout the landscape. The setting is a unique environment. We also have a secured memory care unit which actually we are taking a look at this week to be upgraded and improved. I have had the opportunity to discuss with the corporate office and I am getting involved with that. The environment lends itself to something I have never been exposed to before, the sense of positivity, wellness, and serenity: I am working in an area that provides an opportunity for people to try to the best of their ability. It is a very special place.
JM:It looks more like a resort than a long term care facility.
BP:As a matter of fact that was one of the words I used to my wife when we first drove up here to the campus. The type of caring our people show is not something you can teach. I have been in a number of facilities where that was lacking. You can provide a series of educational classes, or course work and training in technical things, but you can’t teach somebody to care for other people. Outside of the physical layout of the whole property, it is the individuals that make such a difference in people’s lives. You can’t create that.
JM:Speaking of staff, about how many have do you have here?
BP:There are 146-150, full and part time people.
JM:I know you have a very active Noble Horizons Auxiliary. (See Mary Barton, Joanne Elliot and Nina Mathus interviews).
BP:They are very involved.
JM:What do they do?
BP: They support our mission that provides us with fund raising opportunities and programs where they will donate financial support to particular projects that do on in the facility as it pertains to residential development or care. They fill an area of need from suggestions from residents or staff. It has been a significant group who are dedicated. They give their volunteer time just to fill the needs of the residents of Noble Horizons.
JM:Volunteers from the community are very much involved at Noble.
BP:Very much so
JM:What do the volunteers do? Do they do pet therapy?
BP:Sure, there is a group of volunteers who are amazing. In my past I have exposed to volunteer programs, but nothing like compared to what type of programs we have here. There are at least 100 volunteers in and out of this campus regularly. They do a number of different things for the residents, some of whom have been here as residents, and they give back by sharing their time.
JM:When the Christmas Fair is on there are a lots of handmade items, jams and jellies and other things made by the residents and the volunteers.
BP:We do a recognition event for them on a yearly basis. We provide opportunities to recognize all of those who have been so involved in our programs. It is probably not enough, but they dedicate so much of their time.
JM:But so often volunteers are taken for granted, and you don’t do that. You have a recognition dinner. You give awards for people who have volunteered for 10 years, 5 years and so forth. It makes everyone feel worthy, thus they want to do more. It is a win-win situation.
You have been here 1 ½ years, what would you consider the strengths of Noble Horizons?
BP:The people who work here and the people who volunteer are definitely at the top of the list of our strengths. Their compassion and dedication to our overall mission is one of the greatest opportunities that I see. Our setting and its serenity of it lends itself to a lot of our outdoor programing. We try to incorporate our surroundings into some of the rehab that is done here as well as many of the activities that are done here. There is a lot of community involvement as well. All of those are strengths.
JM:One of the other things that I have noticed is that Noble offers many different classes and many different programs for the community as well as for the residents. It is a mutual rather than an isolated facility.
BP:You are exactly rights. Caroline Burchfield (See Caroline Burchfield interview) in the time that I have known her is our Community Relations Liaison. It is amazing the time and dedication that she puts in to bring the community to us. She provides a learning experience for those who will benefit from some of the classes that she presents and some of the speakers. She is aware of what is going on in our
wider community or in many cases our world-wide community. Such programs are so diversified. She works and always has long before me, incredibly hard. She is a special lady.
JM:How are you funded? Do you have an endowment?
BP:It is a non-profit organization. One of the things that have been a bit of a learning curve for me, as my whole background has been in for profit facilities, is that we have a number of benefactors who contribute to Noble. We focus on our day-to-day operation similar to a for profit organization. We try to operate in a fiscally responsible way: it is supported in some ways by those benefactors. It has been an interesting experience as well as amazing to see again the community and how they support Noble Horizons. It is a very special relationship.
JM:It is and it always has been right from the get-go.
BP:I am sure it has.
JM:Do you do a letter of appeal?
BP:On an annual basis Caroline takes care of that process, yes.
JM:You probably have some plans for future expansion, what would you want to do in the future?
BP:Over the course over the last year and a half has given me plenty of opportunity to take things into consideration and to find ways to provide the best possible care in the particular area that we can do. The first question to answer is, “Are we providing all of those areas as expertly as we can?” The short answer is we are doing very well in providing excellent care, but I think we do have an opportunity to provide a program, especially for those with memory impairment in a way that is going to be more beneficial to those individuals that are going through such issues. We have had a lot of conversations with the corporate office (Church Homes Inc. Ed.) about the development of our Whitridge unit. We are involved potentially in a renovation, taking a look at our overall programing and putting forward the best programing possible. We have talked about it for a number of months and we have had a lot of support from community members who have provided donations and their time in terms of what we already do in that unit. It makes sense to provide a service that we may not be doing as effectively as we could. That is the first area that we are going to take a look at. We are also looking to develop more cottages over on our adjacent property on route 41, but that has been in process for some time. Those are a couple of areas that in the short term are getting the most attention.
JM:You have a large staff, have there been many changes in staffing over the year and one half?
BP:There have been staffing changes. Some of it is attributable to changes in leadership and administration which is typical. We have seen some changes along those lines. We have unfortunately lost a number of individuals who have done much to contribute to our programs over the years. We are sorry to see some senior staff leave. I am trying to keep ahead of the curve as the industry is changing.
We are trying to adjust to some of those factors from the outside which will have an effect on what we do. Regulation issues change, they don’t seem to change in our favor often. People are going home when they need rehab; people are staying home with caregivers. I would be the first one to say what better place in the world is there to go than to be home in a familiar environment. It is important for us to develop staff, to create alliances that enable us to look into opportunities that may exist to provide a certain type of care within the environment that now exists. From a business perspective as well as developing new programs we need to stay ahead of the trends: I think that is the right thing to do. Some of the staff changes are consistent with that new vision.
JM:You have a rehab center that is open to the community: you also a part of a unit that is for rehabilitation, you as an organization do lend yourself to be sometimes a half-way house between. My husband was here for a week of R & R, and at the end of the week he did not want to come home. He had such a good experience here. This is a wonderful accolade.
BP:I appreciate that. I do take that as a compliment. There is a very homey environment; the creation of this place in the mind of Eileen Mulligan came to fruition and will extend for year to come. The environment, the art work in the halls, the fresh flowers, and the serenity of the facility and all aspects of the campus were the vision of Eileen. Our reputation is such that it is a comfortable place to go to. You don’t have that horrible institution experience or thought process. As an administrator I don’t have that mind set either. It is nice to know that our resident feel that same way; it is something that has always been the focus and will continue in the future. We will do all we can to continue that reputation.
JM:You do recognition of your volunteers, but you also do some special things for your staff. You do a scholarship program.
BP:We have a scholarship program and in the last few weeks we awarded another significant amount of money to a number of individuals who are participating in school and are aspiring to a degree in their area of expertise in health care. We have a committee made up of a couple of residents, and a couple of staff members and also some retirees who decide to whom to award these scholarships. It is important to invest in your own staff. That thought is shared by the community as a whole.
JM:You also do some sort of recognition for the staff for number of years served.
BP:Yes we do. That has been going on for some time here. We have a couple of people, Jean who have been here for over 40 years. They really lend themselves to Noble’s creation. It is such a strong part of providing great care. WE do what we can to keep those who are so dedicated and interested in providing the Noble experience.
JM:They are dedicated and they do care: it is very obvious. What do you like best about your job?
BP:By far the interaction with people and having on any given day an opportunity to make something positive happen for some individual here. Any day that I come to work and walk into the
office, I look out over the azaleas to enjoy the peace and serenity of the campus and then walk down the hall to lend myself part and parcel to an individual’s day, whatever that may be and have some kind of a positive effect on them. I have not always been able to say that in other positions over the years, but it happens here. This operation lends itself to caring for people right from the top.
JM:Do you plan to stay?
BP:Oh I would love to stay here for as long as they will keep me. I love it here and have no plans to go anywhere.
JM: Is there anything that you would like to add that I haven’t covered about Noble Horizons?
BP:Perhaps I may have left something out. I am just thankful for the opportunity to be able to provide some career development here, our clinical pathway development and reaching out to those who benefit from out services. The communities involved support us: in house, volunteers, the auxiliary and the wider community at large. At this point I think that is about it.
JM:Thank you so very much.
BP:Well thank you very much as well, Jean.