WASHINGTON, D.C. – Elizabeth Blankenship, a registered nurse and former owner and operator of assisted living communities in Arkansas, was today named the 2019 recipient of the Jan Thayer Pioneer Award by the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), the assisted living voice of the American Health Care Association (AHCA). During her more than 40-year career in senior living, Blankenship championed common-sense state regulation, quality measurement and improvement, and a positive workplace environment.
“As a nurse who worked her way up to soon run her own long term care communities, Liz is an inspiration to the profession,” said Scott Tittle, NCAL Executive Director. “Her story is remarkable, but it was her involvement at the state and national levels that make her worthy of this award. After finding effective ways to improve the lives of her residents and employees, Liz committed to sharing that success with her fellow providers to lift up the entire sector.”
Now retired, Blankenship previously owned and operated Southridge Village Assisted Living, a company consisting of four assisted living and continuing care retirement communities throughout Arkansas. She designed and built some of the first private apartments for assisted living residents in the state, dubbed “Homestyle Cottages” that maximized independence in a home-like environment. The company’s communities were recipients of numerous awards, including the Bronze – Commitment to Quality Award through the AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award Program, as well as the Arkansas Governor’s Quality Award.
When the Arkansas Legislature established the licensure of assisted living in 2001, Blankenship served on the committee that helped draft the regulations for the sector. She continued to serve the state on numerous committees, task forces, and boards. Blankenship also helped establish the Arkansas Assisted Living Association (AALA) and was its first board president. Part of her service to AALA included writing and teaching “The Role of the RN” segment of the course for administrators taught by the association. She continued to serve on the board of the Arkansas Health Care Association until her retirement.
At the national level, Blankenship was one of the first NCAL State Leaders representing Arkansas. Additionally, she served on the NCAL Quality Committee and her clinical expertise and workforce innovations made her a sought-out speaker at multiple, national conferences.
Blankenship earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Texas at Arlington. She later became certified as a geriatric nurse through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. In 2015, Blankenship was named Business Woman of the Year in Conway, Arkansas. Earlier this year, Blankenship was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Central Arkansas.
The Jan Thayer Pioneer Award recognizes individuals who have moved the senior care profession forward, positively affecting the lives of those served and those who serve. Recipients must demonstrate dedication, leadership, and considerable contributions to the profession. Blankenship will be presented the Pioneer Award during a formal ceremony at the 70th AHCA/NCAL Convention & Expo in Orlando, Florida this October.