Tim Buchanan (Photo: Legend Senior Living)

Tim Buchanan, founder and CEO of privately held Legend Senior Living in Wichita, KS, and chairman of the independent, nonprofit Senior Living Certification Commission, formed by Argentum in 2015, recently spoke with McKnight’s Senior Living Senior Editor Lois A. Bowers.

Q: In February, the SLCC announced that 252 people had become certified directors of assisted living (CDAL). What do you think the program means to the profession?

A: It’s interesting that you use the word “profession.” One of the statements from one of the subject matter experts who worked with us on one of the development phases of the exam was: “Most people refer to this as an industry. This is my profession.” It was such a sincere comment, and it highlighted why we’re doing this.

For so many decades, people who have devoted their lives and their careers to this profession and have gained some real professional knowledge and a skill set unique to this business haven’t had a way for their professionalism and their accomplishments to be recognized in the way that people in other professions have.

We’ve designed the exam to be a high-standard, professional credential. It’s not an easy exam to succeed at, but there are three primary benefits to this achievement. One is to the individual: It’s a way for them to stand out in their community of professionals. It’s also a way for consumers to recognize a level of professionalism for who is managing the community that they are entrusting their life to and their experience to. And it’s a way for operators to distinguish among candidates in their hiring and their training and to highlight who these people are.

I’m excited on a personal level to have been a part of the beginning of the assisted living business model and to help celebrate that movement across the country. To be able to do something special to recognize the professionalism of people who do this work every day is a unique privilege for me.

I think it’s well worth the investment of every senior living professional to seek this credential — and to seek as many professional designations as possible — and to ask their employer to help them pay for the credential. Legend is paying for all of our eligible directors to sit for the exam, and I know other Argentum board-member companies are doing the same.

Q: What is the status of the certification programs planned for directors in independent living and memory care?

A: The SLCC is working with our consultants to develop a schedule and a work plan for those two programs. It starts with multiple meetings with subject matter experts to help develop the domains for each one of those specific credentials and then meetings with another set of subject matter experts to help write test items. It’s about a yearlong process for each credential.

At the same time, Argentum is offering a certificate of knowledge for sales and marketing professionals. That’s a certificate program, a little different than the credential the SLCC offers, but it nonetheless highlights training and experience. For that, the sales and marketing professionals will complete a course of study that Argentum will sponsor and provide. The certificate they’ll receive will recognize them for having accomplished that course of study and passed a test specific to that course of study.

Q: Legend has started a fellow program at Wichita State University. What was the impetus?

A: They’ve chosen the two fellows for this year. We’ve dovetailed that with an internship program with Wichita State students at one of our Wichita assisted living properties, Regent Park. That also has evolved into our vice president of education being asked to teach a course inside the College of Healthcare Professions.

That relationship started with trying to do some joint research. A fellowship with the university has evolved into this broader relationship and partnership between us and the university beyond what we originally anticipated.

My wife and I give a lot of money to education as one of the things we feel is really important. Doing something with Wichita State in the area of healthcare professions was just a natural fit for us as donors.

We actually are employing one of the students. I’ve spoken at the university, and one of the students I met at one of the speaking engagements approached us about a job and is on our payroll now.

It’s part of a broader movement that Argentum, as well as other associations, are doing to develop partnerships and relationships with all of our local and state universities. They’re really eager to have these partnerships and to have this involvement. It doesn’t always have to be a fellowship or a donation of money as in our case, but just to have an industry partner come alongside and work with them.

Whether it’s in the business college or college of healthcare professions, it’s something that we as a profession need to do more of and help teach other operators how to share our experiences. How those relationships are formed is part of Argentum’s broader workforce development effort that includes a workforce subcommittee on the board. These university partnerships are a big part of that.