Amanda Vivanco and E.K. Breed worked at the same Valley restaurant in 2014.

“We never met,” E.K. says. Or if they did, it wasn’t memorable.

“I don’t remember him,” Amanda says.

Three years later, their paths crossed, online.

“We started talking.” Amanda says. “A lot of philosophical talk.”

“Yes,” he agrees. “But those conversations went somewhere.”

If they’d gotten together in 2014, Scottsdale’s La Boca Wine Bar might be the most compassionate and efficient restaurant in Arizona. Instead, they came to the Verde Valley, where they are improving the quality of life, one patient, and one healthcare system, at a time. That’s why Amanda Vivanco and E.K. Breed are Yavapai College’s 2022-23 Verde Campus Alumni of the Year.

Keeping “care” in long-term care

Amanda moves briskly through Haven Health Sedona’s clean, brightly-lit hallways, past the courtyard with views of the red rocks. “We’re busy these days. Nurse Appreciation Week is coming up.”

That’s a big deal here. When she took over as Director of Nursing, this program was struggling. A year later, Haven Health Sedona enjoys the highest quality ranking among Haven Healthcare centers. A big part of the turnaround is empowering and appreciating its nurses. “Our staff is our most important resource.” Nurses, she says, take care of everyone, but are often overlooked themselves. “Here, we take care of our people. That’s my job.”

Amanda earned her R.N. from YC’s Nursing program in 2021. A Clarkdale resident, she worked through school as a charge nurse at Haven before they approached her to direct the 112-bed facility. “I’m a fixer.” She laughs. “When I was a floor nurse, I knew I had a problem because I wanted to fix everybody.”

Ekklesia ‘E.K.’ Breed – her husband, partner and fellow-fixer – shares the diagnosis. “It’s like a curse,” he laughs. He earned his R.N. in YC’s 2022 Nursing class and is now Director of Nursing at Haven Health in Camp Verde. He came to healthcare from a business background, got into Nursing at Amanda’s urging and calls it, “one of the best decisions I ever made.”

They make a great team. “I like fixing things behind the scenes.” He says. “Amanda sees all the problems up front. I think that’s why our marriage is awesome: we see the same issues, but from different angles.”

Each manages a large facility that includes residential care and rehab. Both are passionate about providing the best possible care. “Long-term care is different from a hospital,” he says. “It’s more about the patient. We’re not just treating your condition; we also want to make you feel at home.”

Short-term fixes

For Amanda, quality care means helping nurses succeed by recognizing their individual strengths. “Some nurses like to NOT know what they’re walking into.” She explains. “We put them on the rehab unit, where it’s volatile and they’re solving problems and people are coming and going. Some nurses prefer a routine. They work on long-term care, where Sally wants this every day, Suzy wants that, and Joe likes to tan outside.”

At their facilities, Amanda and E.K. work to free up nurses “so they can actually practice patient care. Traditionally, a lot of non-care duties have been going to the floor nurses.” E.K. says. “They take on everything, that’s a major reason why they burn out.”

As a solution, Amanda and E.K. have streamlined their admission process. “We do more in advance,” Amanda says. Prescriptions, treatment plans and room assignments are entered into the system before the patient arrives. “It’s a little more work on the management side. But there’s no panicking. Admission isn’t scary anymore. By the time they arrive, the back-end work is done. All the nurse has to do is meet the patient.”

They’re always looking for ways to simplify procedures and facilitate direct care. “Someone said to me, ‘Most of the time, when something goes wrong in healthcare, it’s not the person. It’s the system.’” E.K. says.

Improving systems has become their Mission Statement. It’s why both are still learning – Amanda recently acquired her bachelor’s in nursing and E.K. is working toward his master’s in health care administration. They are on a mission to raise the quality of long-term care county-wide.

Long-term plans

“Long-term care is going to be so important in the next 10 to 15 years,” E.K. says. “That’s what I’m worried about. How can we support this community from a healthcare standpoint?”

Part of the answer lies in developing a comprehensive healthcare system that meets people where they are. “I would like to bring back home visits,” Amanda says, “where nurses follow up with you after a hospital stay.” It would keep recovering clients and elderly folks, living alone, healthy and on-track. “If we could see them where they live, and keep them out of the hospital, that would be ideal.”

Easing the burden on hospitals and care centers will be critical, E.K. says. “There’s an Urgent Care/Telehealth initiative underway in Phoenix. We need to tap into things like that.” No single technology will solve the problem. But a steady talent pool, and a willingness to connect, coordinate services and innovate, is the best way forward. Fortunately, Amanda and E.K. will be around to help. “People out here deserve good care,” she says. “That’s why we want to stay here.”

“We were going to go to California, but the Verde Valley grows on you,” E.K. says. “When you do something for people here, it just feels better. I never felt so satisfied that I was doing good for people, until I came here. I love it.”