The article below is a top story from this week's ACTION newsletter—Care Providers of Minnesota's weekly newsletter for members. The newsletter focuses on current legislative issues, regulations, long-term care trends, and other Association news. Each Thursday evening, it is delivered to your inbox. To sign up for ACTION, contact Lisa Foss Olson (952-851-2483). To learn more about membership, visit our Become a Member page.


75th anniversary reflections on key initiatives

Patti Cullen
By Patti Cullen, CAE  |  June 3, 2022  |  All members

During the course of 2022, we have been sharing memories, photos, and pearls of wisdom from members new—and not so new. We sent a series of questions to former Board members/Association leaders, and we will be sharing some of their thoughts with you over the course of this year, culminating with a summer party with the St. Paul Saints on August 18 and a big dance celebration for all members at our annual convention in November. This is the fifth article in our series of questions and answers from leaders—the others can be found here: 75th Anniversary—CEO Blog. This week, we feature responses from Julie Ditzler who was involved in Association committees and events since starting in this profession in 1976 as a director of nursing. Julie was an active DON, administrator, educator, and Association committee chair over the years until her retirement in 2003. She still reaches out for opportunities to volunteer! 

Reflecting on key initiatives led by the Association during your tenure, what are you most proud of as a legacy initiative?
Julie Ditzler: As a young director of nurses in April 1976 I was introduced to Minnesota Association of Health Care Facilities (MAHCF), (the precursor to Care Providers of Minnesota) by my employer Merle Nugent, who owned Cedar Pines Health Care Facility at that time. I had never been in nursing administration, done any work in long term care, or taken any specific courses in gerontology. One of the most meaningful. Important programs that MAHCF had at the time was called Peer Review. A team of department mangers representing administration, nursing, dietary, and maintenance from one facility would visit another member facility for a mock health department survey. We would stay most of the day and look at their systems, policies, procedures, etc. and share ideas. This was a most educational program that both introduced me to the business of skilled nursing facilities and helped me to meet other professionals heading up nursing departments in those facilities. In retrospect, I am not certain I would have survived without it. Even though the program is no longer in place, the great legacy of Care Providers has always continued to be one of EDUCATION.

Secondly, the Association was my go-to site to clarify federal, state, and local regulations, the separation of each and the accuracy of policies reflecting those regulations. I am certain many people practicing in those days recall that much of the survey, was simply the surveyors sitting in an office on site and reviewing everything you had written out in policy and procedure manuals! After a short time of recognizing how closely tied we were to the Department of Human Services (DHS), the Medical Assistance program, Rule 49, and setting our payment rates I was stunned and angered. The Association again led the way to not only argue for greater funding, but to educate the legislators themselves who had a most difficult time understanding the complex system of reimbursement in place at that time! 

Thirdly, the creation of regional sections of the state and annual conventions is something that again stands out as the way to share new ideas, learn about new programs in aging, and most importantly meet colleagues with whom you could develop strong relationships. I served on many of the committees over the years, meeting fantastic professionals all of whom were interested in improving the quality of care for our dear residents and families.

Minnesota has frequently been referred to as a leader in aging services over the decades—why do you think that is? Why have we been more successful than other states?
Julie Ditzler: Minnesota has had a long-standing history, I believe, for high standards of quality health care. One could say that it all began with the Mayo Brothers in southern Minnesota, but it also stems from the cultures that settled in this State mid-nineteenth century. Our ancestors all seemed to have a strong work ethic and continually made attempts at improving methods of farming and other industries. The University of Minnesota has always been a leader in research and Medicine was often at the forefront of that. At the University, Dr. Robert Kane and his wife Rosalie were the first to set up an endowed long-term care chair to lead quality of life research and best practices initiatives. To my knowledge that had not been done elsewhere back then. Many health care businesses got their start here—such as Medtronic, 3M, and others! We have attracted bright professionals in all areas of practice. Many of these successful companies then created foundations, to help fund much of the progress. We have literally millions of dollars invested in improved health care in Minnesota. 

In addition, many professional organizations were started in Minnesota, led by creative professionals who moved us forward in developing a full array of options for seniors such as the Minnesota Gerontological Society, AAA ( Area Agency on Aging), the Veterans Administration, Senior Federation and Nursing Home Advocacy groups. Many of these organizations worked on collaborations—something Minnesota is known for. For example, the Veterans Administration worked with Aging experts from the University of Minnesota including Vernon Weckworth in the healthcare master’s program, and Ken and Ruth Gordon who developing the long-term care administrators program. The Senior Federation and Nursing Home Residents Advocacy groups helped to define resident/senior needs and desires for change. It was a busy, exciting time and the cooperation and communication from each party and discipline helped improve our quality of care immeasurably.  


Patti Cullen, CAE  |  President/CEO  |  |  952-851-2487


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Care Providers of Minnesota is a non-profit membership association with the mission to Empower Members to Performance Excellence. Our 900+ members across Minnesota represent non-profit and for-profit organizations providing services along the full spectrum of post-acute care and long-term services and support. We are the state affiliate for the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, and with our national partners we provide solutions for quality care.

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