Steamboat Springs The Doak Walker Care Center earned a deficiency-free survey from the Colorado Department of Health earlier this month.
Medical personnel from the department make the unannounced visits annually to every nursing home in Colorado.
"You never know when they're coming," Carol Schaffer, director of the Doak Walker Care Center, said.
The results of the survey were recently made public.
The visits usually entail a three or four-day inspection of the facility. The inspectors check the nursing home to ensure it complies not only with state standards but federal standards.
Inspectors already have some knowledge of the facility and the residents before they walk through the doors, Schaffer said.
During their visit, Health Department officials conduct interviews with staff about policies and safety procedures, as well as patients and family members.
Their procedure remains the same every year but their focus may shift somewhat with each visit, said nurse manager Lee Dickey.
With a dietician on the inspection team, nutrition proved to be a key area of concern for the inspectors, she said.
They examined such things as the cleanliness of the kitchen, the quality of the food, the portions served to residents and how well residents' diets followed doctors' guidelines.
The inspections often cover the small details, Schaffer said.
One inspector on a previous visit checked the temperature of the milk served to residents at mealtime.
A salt shaker at a table of a resident whose diet prohibited salt earned the Doak Walker Care Center its one and only deficiency in a previous year.
"It's pretty overwhelming," Schaffer said.
The effort to meet state and federal standards continues throughout the year, she added.
One nurse and one dietician arrived Jan. 2 to the surprise of people working at the center,
The staff's adrenaline escalates with any inspection, Dickey said, but by the time the team arrives, the opportunity for making any changes has passed.
"If you're giving good care all year round, the actual place is whatever they walk into," she said.
The two inspectors said that of the 50 or so nursing homes they inspected last year, only 6 or 7 percent yielded surveys free of deficiencies, Schaffer said.
Previous inspections by the state Health Department usually turned up one small deficiency at the Doak Walker Care Center.
"After missing it by one, it was nice to finally have something that said we had none," Dickey said.
The Doak Walker Care Center owes its flawless rating to the commitment to excellence upheld throughout the year by every person on staff, Schaffer said, from the housekeepers and nurses to the nutritionists and therapists.
"It really is a tribute to the staff and the job they do all year," she said.
"It's because of them."