Casey Proud lived an active life, surfing, snowboarding and playing soccer — until he suffered a devastating spinal cord injury while snowboarding on Mt. Shasta.
He could no longer walk, let alone surf or snowboard. He thought his days of riding the waves or shredding powder were gone.
But with the help of the Kaiser Foundation Rehabilitation Center at the Vallejo Medical Center, he’s not only returned to surfing, the 37-year-old is fiercely competing in the sport as a paraplegic athlete. In December 2022, four years after his accident, he won the ISA Para-Surfing Prone World Champion title.
“One thing I would share with (rehab patients) is that as you learn more, it does get easier,” he said. “As you learn those skills that you didn’t know you had, it allows you to do so much more.”
The remarkable success of the lifelong surfer, Proud, who lived in San Francisco at the time of the accident, is an excellent example of the life-changing care the rehabilitation center offers to those suffering from strokes, and spinal or brain injuries.
Top in the nation
For the third year in a row, the rehab center has claimed a spot among the nation’s top 50 rankings, according to U.S. News’ Best Hospitals study, an annual report of the nation’s more than 4,500 hospitals.
The rankings examine numerous factors, namely:
- Prevention of hospital readmission after discharge
- How often a hospital avoids needing to transfer patients to an acute-care hospital during their rehabilitation.
- A higher rate than the national benchmark for discharging patients to home
According to the annual report, high scores such as the ones KP’s rehabilitation center receives, “suggest better survival odds, fewer complications and more patients treated.”
The KP center has a long history. Established in 1946, it has served more than 100,000 members 14 years old and older during its 77 years. The center runs at capacity year-around, seeing 1,500 patients annually, mostly in the inpatient setting.
The center offers a variety of therapies, including physical, occupational, speech, recreation, as well as services from rehabilitation nurses, nurse case managers, neuropsychologists, adaptive sports consultants and registered dietitians.
The center’s director Michelle Camicia said a variety of factors contribute to its success. The first ones that come to mind are the “wonderful” work environment and staff engagement.
“We have highly tenured staff and low turnover, and with that brings expert care,” she said.
The center’s winning formula
The staff is committed to following best practices that are rooted in what studies have proven to be the most effective approaches to care, including those to prevent falls, hospital-acquired pressure injuries, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, among other adverse events.
“We follow the evidence-based practices and consistently do the right thing,” Camicia said.
U.S. News’ Best Hospitals study applauded the Vallejo center for how often patients go directly home from this facility and remain at home, rather than requiring further institutional care. The KP facility continues its performance of outpacing the national average.
Camicia also called out how they handle discharges. They prepare both caregiver and patient to use innovative approaches, such as a mobile health app providing education and community resources, and the Preparedness Assessment for the Transition Home (PATH), a program for assessing tool to assess and addressing the needs of family caregivers. This program was also recognized as “exemplary” by the ANCC Magnet Recognition Program™ during the recent Magnet Accreditation survey.
Several pivotal factors that may not be captured in the U.S. News study are the center’s consistent individualized care approach, the belief that every patient has potential, and its human caring environment.
“We are authentically present with patients, families, staff,” Camicia said. “They experience the love that we have in our center, for our patients and families, and for each other.”