We see the increasingly urgent headlines: PDPM is coming! PDPM is coming! Everyone is looking for the magic answer or quick fix to ensure readiness and minimize the pain of implementation.

Long-term care organizations and post-acute care providers feel overwhelmed, unprepared, and anxious about the October 1 transition date. Education and resource providers are scrambling to meet the needs of new members and clients. Comparisons are made to the great MDS transition of 2010.

However, there’s a much bigger picture we must consider. First, healthcare delivery and payment reforms continue in response to policy goals and market forces. Second, and I hope you’re sitting down, we aren’t finished. Not even close. The Patient-Driven Payment Model (PDPM) is yet another stop along the way. Fortunately, a vision of post-acute care delivery is becoming clearer, and we can begin to prepare for the future, even as we adjust to the 2019 realities of PDPM.

Ultimately, policy makers and quality improvement advocates envision a site-agnostic post-acute continuum of care. PDPM for skilled nursing, and PDGM (the Patient-Driven Groupings Model) for home health, are the first steps toward that vision. Concurrently, policy makers are developing standard patient data elements for use across care settings that will eventually align patient assessment tools and payment models to eliminate the current silos in post-acute care.

This envisioned future of post-acute care will only strengthen the need for skilled patient assessment and clinical leaders. These leaders will be the backbone of every post-acute care provider organization and will need strong clinical and technical skills for understanding, identifying and coding patient characteristics to justify treatment and ensure appropriate payment. In skilled nursing, this includes strong RAI/MDS coordinators, deep knowledge of ICD-10 and primary comorbidities, and highly skilled nursing clinical leaders. As a result, post-acute care organizations now recognize a critical need for education and for nursing clinical leaders who understand this enhanced leadership role.

Since its founding in 1999, the American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordination (AANAC) has earned the reputation as the premier resource and network for long-term care professionals involved in the resident assessment and MDS process. Now with more than 15,000 members, AANAC is committed to the success of the entire interdisciplinary team and delivers accurate and timely information, educational opportunities, advocacy in legislation and a peer community of support.

In 2015, the AANAC Board of Directors convened a series of Nurse Leadership Summits and identified a need for a strong national professional nursing association to empower nurses as leaders, to lead the change for new care delivery models, and to elevate the voice of the nursing profession. These summits resulted in the launch of the American Association of Directors of Nursing Services (AADNS) to support directors of nursing (DONs) and directors of nursing services (DNSs). In March 2016, AADNS launched with the objective to meet these needs and to advance resident-directed care. Today, AADNS has more than 2,000 members.

This week, we build upon the legacy and innovation of these two organizations and enter a new chapter in post-acute care leadership. AANAC’s 20th Annual Conference convened this week in Orlando with our largest attendance yet, more than 1,300 professionals. These post-acute care leaders will herald the launch of the American Association of Post-Acute Care Nursing (AAPACN). In selecting this name, the board of directors envisioned our role in supporting the post-acute care continuum, even as the future vision is still coming into view. The board believes it is the right time to highlight that role and to position our members and the professions we educate and support for new roles in post-acute care nursing.

In moving to the AAPACN name, we will continue to champion the critical role of certification and education in high-quality, post-acute skilled care. The role of skilled nursing in the care continuum continues to shift and evolve through impacts of market forces, patient demographics, payment, and delivery models. Future payment models, including a unified post-acute payment model, will expand the need for highly competent reimbursement and clinical leaders. AAPACN endeavors to support these leaders through education, certification, professional development, advocacy, and peer support. We are ready and our vision is clear.

Tracey Moorhead is the president and CEO of the American Association of Post-Acute Care Nursing.