5 tips for enhancing staff training to improve quality initiatives

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Sister Kevin Patricia Lynch
Sister Kevin Patricia Lynch

As nursing home administrators navigate through new regulations, changing demography of the long-term care market and complex resident needs, well-rounded staff education is critical to improving quality of resident care.

St. Patrick's Home Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in the Bronx, NY, a member of the Carmelite System, has been providing care to the community for nearly 90 years. We strive to find collaborative ways to provide high quality care that meets the needs of today's elderly. Quality is important in everything that we do.

St. Patrick's fared better than state and national levels when it came to readmission rates for our short-stay residents, but when a local hospital asked about our use of quality improvement programs, we knew we had to find a partner who could provide our staff with tools to build upon their skills.

We recognized that staff education is not something we could accomplish on our own. We decided to partner with Medline for its exclusive INTERACT eCurriculum education program. In less than a year, we achieved 100% completion, from housekeeping and rehabilitation staff to CNAs, nurses, administration, pastoral care, medical director and staff.

While training an entire team can be a huge undertaking, it is critical to create a way for every staff member to feel informed and empowered about how she or he individually plays a critical role in improving quality of care. Based on our own experience, the following are five tips to consider when implementing new training initiatives:

1. Everyone in: Each one of us at St. Patrick's has a responsibility in the daily care of our residents. Facilities should not pick and choose who participates in the training. Everyone must understand how their role impacts the services provided to residents.

2. Customize education: A registered nurse will not receive the same education as dietary staff or a physician. The education should be customized in order to understand how it applies to their specific role.

3. Consider preferred learning methods: Learning is not one-size-fits-all. While we have always provided in-service trainings, scheduling always was a bit hectic for our staff. For us, online training provided a flexible learning environment for nearly 400 employees in round-the-clock shifts. It also provided a way to easily track progress and areas of development.

4. Manage expectations: We know that working in healthcare is extremely demanding. The continuous addition of new regulations is overwhelming and greatly impacts our daily work. Make the education easy to consume for your staff by breaking them into multiple sessions. Additionally, make yourself available to answer any questions about what they can expect throughout training. 

5. Acknowledge accomplishments: Each member of our staff was presented with a certificate of completion after finishing the online quality improvement training.  It made our staff so excited to see their hard work come to fruition. One team member even planned to show it to her mom because she knew how proud it would make her — even as an adult. Small gestures can make a huge impact when it comes to empowering and motivating staff and we as administrators should always consider that.

Additionally, consider how you are analyzing training and proficiency. In order for staff to feel confident about what they have just learned, they must be made aware of their progress and improvement.

Since finishing the training, our staff has become more observant about acute changes in residents. If they see a change in their condition, they bring it to their supervisor's attention so she can intervene right away and help avoid hospitalization.

While most nursing homes are already doing the right things, new approaches to care can make the difference between whether or not you are chosen as a referral partner. It is critical to find new opportunities to help boost knowledge and skills. Enhancing our staff training has helped emphasize our commitment to high quality care to our acute-care partners.

Sister Kevin Patricia Lynch is the administrator for St. Patrick's Home Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in the Bronx, NY, the first permanent foundation of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm. Sister Kevin has held various positions within the Carmelite congregation for 50-plus years.

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