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National Quality Award Examiners

The AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award Program


The AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award Program recognizes long term and post-acute care centers across the nation that strive for improved quality care. The program sets high standards for quality based on the Baldrige Performance Excellence criteria and encourages centers to commit, achieve, and excel in quality performance.

The program is open exclusively to AHCA/NCAL member centers in good standing with the organization. With more than 12,000 members, the program seeks to recognize those centers that are outstanding in their quality efforts.

Application Levels

Applicants may apply for three levels of awards; each level has its own distinct rigors and requirements for quality and performance excellence.

Bronze – Commitment to Quality: The first step in the National Quality Award Program is the Bronze – Commitment to Quality Award. The goal of this award level is to provide applicants with the tools and resources they need for continuous performance improvement. Through the Bronze criteria, based on the Organizational Profile section of the Baldrige Health Care Criteria for Performance Excellence, members assess their organization’s mission, vision, and key factors that lead to success.

Silver – Achievement in Quality: The second step in the National Quality Award Program is the Silver – Achievement in Quality Award. Applicants are required to receive a Bronze award before applying at the Silver level. At this level, applicants continue to learn and develop effective approaches that help improve performance and health care outcomes. In addition to the Organizational Profile, the Silver criteria includes the basic and select overall item requirements within the seven categories of the Baldrige Health Care Criteria for Performance Excellence criteria. Silver applicants provide a thorough assessment of their systematic approaches and the deployment of these approaches in these seven key management areas.

Gold – Excellence in Quality: The final step in the program is the Gold – Excellence in Quality Award. Applicants are required to receive Bronze and Silver awards before applying at the Gold level.  At this level, applicants must show superior performance in all areas of the criteria including leadership, strategic planning, and customer and staff satisfaction.  Participation in the Gold level allows organizations to take their performance excellence journey to a higher level through their application of the full criteria and the valuable feedback received through the application process.  Gold applicants address the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence in Health Care in its entirety.

National Quality Award Examiners

Silver and Gold applications are reviewed by volunteer Senior Examiners and Master Examiners, respectively.  Examiners at each level evaluate the applications following a formal process established by AHCA/NCAL and using the Baldrige scoring guidelines. Based on their evaluation, applicants receive a feedback report identifying strengths as well as opportunities for improvement.

AHCA/NCAL welcomes Senior and Master Examiner applicants with experience in the Baldrige Performance Excellence criteria and/or application of systematic quality improvement from both within and outside the long term care profession.

The following is a brief description of duties for Senior Examiners and Master Examiners. Team compositions and review processes are subject to change. 

Please note that we do not recruit for Bronze Examiners. Bronze applications are reviewed by a small number of highly trained Examiners who are selected by AHCA/NCAL for this purpose alone.


Senior Examiners:  Senior Examiners work on 3-4 person Examiner teams. Each team reviews 5-6 Silver applications (up to 25 pages each), completes a comprehensive feedback report for each application, and recommends applicants for the Silver Award.

Master Examiners: Master Examiners work on 3 person Examiner teams. Each team reviews 1-2 Gold applications (up to 55 pages each), completes a comprehensive feedback report for each application, and recommends applicants to a Panel of Judges who will make all final Site Visit and Award decisions. Master Examiners may also be asked to conduct a site visit at a Gold applicant organization to verify and clarify strengths and opportunities found within the application.

Time Commitment

The review process requires a significant investment of time. Applicants must secure support from the leadership of their organization before applying to become an Examiner. Applicants must be prepared to make the following time commitments:

Participate in Examiner Training

  • ​All Master Examiners will attend a 2 ½ day in-person training session from February 22-24, 2016, location TBD.
  • Senior Examiners will attend a 2 ½ day in-person training session from February 24-26, 2016, location TBD.
  • Participate in weekly conference calls with assigned Examiner team during the review period.
  • Complete assigned review work on each application during the review period; on average Examiners report spending a total of 40-60 hours spent on review work.
  • Participate in the in-person review session (Master Examiners, May 23-25, 2016; Senior Examiner Team Leaders, June 6-8, 2016).

Key Dates (subject to change)

  • Master Examiner Training: February 22-24, 2016, location TBD
  • Master Examiner (Gold) review period begins: February 24, 2016
  • Senior Examiner Training: February 24-26, 2016, location TBD
  • Senior Examiner (Silver) review period begins: March 4, 2016
  • Master Examiner Review Session: May 23-25, 2016, location TBD
  • Senior Examiner Team Leader Review Session: June 6-8, 2016, location TBD

Travel Expenses

AHCA/NCAL will cover the costs associated with travel to the training and/or in person review session for all Examiners required to attend. This includes airfare and hotel accommodations. Breakfast and lunch are served during the meetings and Examiners also receive a small daily stipend to offset any additional costs.

Selection Criteria

Returning Examiners are selected based on previous service. The evaluation process for returning Examiners relies on the results of the peer review process. Examiners are chosen based on competence, understanding of the criteria, ability to work as a team member, honoring guidelines and timelines, quality of feedback reports, and overall commitment to the program.

New Senior Examiners are chosen based on expertise in the Baldrige criteria, quality discipline, success in leadership of award-recipient organizations, interest in systematic quality improvement, and other salient factors. 

Master Examiners are selected from Gold recipient centers, highly experienced Senior Examiners and individuals with review experience with other Baldrige-based award programs.

All Examiners must have access to private email, be proficient in the use of Microsoft Office Products, be able to use Webex, and online document sharing software (i.e. Box, Dropbox, GoogleDocs, etc.).

Application Process

There are two parts to the application process.

  1. Pre-Application Webinar: This is a brief (16 minute) webinar that provides an overview of the AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award program, Examiner requirements and differences between this program and other state or national programs. Access the webinar here.
  2. Examiner Application: This is the online application that all Examiners are required to submit. Access the application here.

Please see the table below to determine which part of the application process you need to complete.

Examiner Experience Pre-Application Webinar Examiner Application
New Examiners
Note that the Examiner Application form will ask a series of questions about the pre-application webinar, so you must view it before submitting your application.
Examiners with other Baldrige program experience (state or national) Strongly encouraged, not required Required
Examiners with less than two years AHCA/NCAL experience Strongly encouraged, not required Required
Returning Examiners with 2+ year experience Not applicable Required, experience details exempt