Editor’s Note: We are profiling the McKnight’s 2020 Women of Distinction honorees daily through the program’s July 28 online awards ceremony. To learn more about this digital celebration, the Forum the next day (which offers three free continuing education credits July 29) and the program in general, visit mcknightswomenofdistinction.com.

Akia Blandon headshot
Akia Blandon

There’s a saying that if you want to get something done, ask a busy person. That certainly holds true with Akia Blandon.

The vice president of clinical services at Plaza Rehab and Nursing Center in the Bronx, NY, Blandon has almost continually made professional leaps and bounds since starting in the field as a nurse attendant in 1992.

In addition to overseeing a 744-bed skilled nursing facility and its wide variety of services, Blandon is a professor at the Helene Fuld College of Nursing and this spring also completed studies and earned her doctoral degree as a nurse practitioner.

A single mother of five, she is a church leader, mentors bachelor’s and master’s-level nursing students at a handful of local colleges, and runs Pearls of Promise, a nonprofit organization that she founded to help women and girls who have suffered physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

In addition to her full-time duties at the Plaza, she works as a nurse practitioner for Metro Urgent Care, providing urgent and primary care throughout a three-state area. Her other freelance pursuits include being an event planner and a clothing model.

In 2016, the Plaza’s nonprofit leadership decided to sell the facility to a management company, Citadel Care Centers, which in turn gave Blandon “the keys to all things clinical.” A palpable culture shift ensued, colleagues say. It included more staff engagement, an emphasis on professional education, person-centered care and the pursuit of more higher-needs patients and residents occurred. Standards of care rose, and the Plaza started inviting hospitals to send it their most challenging, medically complex patients.

“She is a true leader. Her compassion and resolve are palpable,” said Plaza Administrator Randolf Palmaira of Blandon. “In meetings, you can almost feel a powerful energy radiating out from her, inspiring her team and colleagues to strive for more. She has elevated the Plaza to heights which were unimaginable only three years ago. Her personality, poise and compassion set her apart from the pack.”

The McKnight’s Women of Distinction program is jointly administered by McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. The program’s Diamond sponsor is PointClickCare. Silver sponsors are OnShift and PharMerica, and the Signature sponsor is Acadia Pharmaceuticals.