Elizabeth (Liz) Blankenship

Elizabeth BlankenshipShe is an entrepreneur, innovator and caregiver. Elizabeth (Liz) Blankenship’s career spans more than 40 years with dedicated service to the creation and support of quality healthcare and assisted living facilities for seniors.

Blankenship’s education at the University of Central Arkansas began in an unusual way. After her husband was transferred to the Little Rock Air Force Base from Wichita, Kansas, Blankenship was fearful she would not be able to finish her nursing education. However, she was able to transfer into an innovative program offered at UCA to complete her initial nursing degree in 1975.

Blankenship lives by the motto, “Never, never, never give up.” She continued her education at the University of Texas at Arlington while working full time in Muskogee, Oklahoma, raising two teenagers, taking 30 hours a semester, and making weekly trips to Texas to attend classes. She graduated from UTA with a BSN in 1988. During this time, she also co-authored “Patient Education in Home Care,” published by Aspen Publishers Inc. in 1988.

Upon her return to Arkansas in 1992, she purchased an 11-bed residential care facility in Heber Springs. This move further ignited her passion for a career providing care for seniors, especially those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

As a registered nurse, and owner and operator of assisted living communities, Blankenship focused on a commitment to quality. This commitment was first and foremost in designing and developing the programs at the four assisted living facilities she developed, owned and operated in Arkansas with her daughters, both of whom are UCA alumnae. She utilized the Four Quality Measures developed by the National Center of Assisted Living (NCAL); dedicated to the concept of person-centered care. She served on the NCAL Quality Committee for several years.

Blankenship designed and built the first assisted living, home-style cottages in Arkansas to ensure each resident had a private apartment in a cozy homelike environment. The cottages enable the residents to remain as independent as possible while providing needed assistance. These cottages ensured person-centered living and allowed the facilities to meet customer satisfaction at 98 percent. Three of her four facilities received National Bronze Quality awards. The Heber Springs facility also won the Arkansas Governor’s Quality Award.

She was one of the first NCAL state leaders representing Arkansas. NCAL’s leadership allowed Blankenship to mentor other state leaders. And as clinical advisor, she assisted the industry in adapting to the increasing acuity levels with policies, programs and education to meet NCAL’s Four Quality goals. She was a 2015 national convention participant in the Nursing Leaders Round Table: Tips From Dynamic Leaders.

As an advocate for quality care for seniors, she has served on numerous boards and committees. In response to new licensure procedures for long-term care by the 2001 Arkansas Legislature, she served on the Arkansas Department of Health committee on Long Term Care to assist in writing the rules and regulations that govern assisted living programs today.

Additionally, Blankenship was the first president of the Arkansas Assisted Living Board of Directors serving for six years, while also serving on the Arkansas Health Care Association Board (AHCA) for 13 years. She received the AHCA’s prestigious George O. Jernigan Award in 2018 in recognition of her service and contributions to the long-term care industry.

She has also served on the Community Advisory Committee for the Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and on the Governor’s Alzheimer’s Task Force under former Gov. Mike Beebe and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Blankenship was named a Conway Business Woman of the Year in 2015. She is a member of Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Honor Society and a certified gerontology nurse.

She currently serves as a member on the UCA College of Health and Behavioral Sciences Advisory Board and is a continuous advocate for the School of Nursing. Through her generosity UCA’s Nursing Simulation Lab was equipped with a high-fidelity manikin, as well as cameras, microphones, a control station and other equipment to record student performance.

Blankenship retired this year, but she continues to give back. She encourages employees to return to college and continue their nursing education through the tuition reimbursement program she began in her business. She strives to inspire single mothers and encourages them by reiterating her own motto, “Never, never, never give up”.

A pioneer for quality assisted living, Blankenship’s impact on the long-term care industry will be felt across the state and region for years to come.