James M. Berklan

We’re here to give an update about the state of long-term and senior care leadership’s formal education training. The operative phrase is, “It’s looking up.”

When last we spoke of the Vision 2025 Symposium, in December, there were plans and hopes. Now, barely a month from the historic gathering of educators and professionals, the talk has risen to “optimism” and “next steps.”

To refresh memories, Vision 2025 is an endeavor to beef up college and university leadership degree offerings for managers in the senior care continuum of settings.

Considerate it doable.

(Today, there are precious few robust college programs training future LTC managers, perhaps six or fewer, and most graduate very small numbers of students each year.)

“The goal of having 25 strong programs and 1,000 paid internships by 2025 has resonated pretty well,” noted movement organizer Douglas M. Olson, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and director of its Center for Health Administration and Aging Services Excellence (CHAASE) program.

To date, more than 30 universities — considered the toughest part of this equation — have signed up to attend the symposium. It’s an invitation-only affair to be held June 19-20 in downtown Chicago.

Several dozen progressive organizations and other stakeholders also will be taking part. One of the most encouraging signs was a recent meeting of endorsing organizations in Washington.

Those include the American Health Care Association, LeadingAge, the American College of Health Care Administrators, the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, Argentum, the American Seniors Housing Association and the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards Foundation (NAB Foundation). In other words, a serious group of stakeholders.

“That was really inspirational,” said Olson. “That conversation was, ‘We have to re-think how we’re doing things. We can’t do things the same way we’ve been doing it.’ There can’t be silos working on all of these things.”

Educational components are now being finalized for Vision 2025, which will consist of panels and a lot of small-group brainstorming. The first day’s discussions will be summarized overnight, setting the stage for refinement and creating specific action plans the second day.

A white paper will be finalized by July. It will include specific action steps that participants have agreed to pursue. That’s when the symposium’s effects will spray beyond the 135 on-site participants and start involving providers, educators and associations across the country.

Given the leaders driving this high-level conference, the outcomes could be remarkable. The co-chairs are Steve Chiess, Program Manager Long-term Care Administration at St. Joseph’s College, and Ed Kenny, Chairman of the Board for LCS.

Individual steering committee members are:

•  Fred Benjamin, Chief Operating Officer, Lexington Health Network

•  Don Husi, Managing Director, of symposium host Ziegler

•  Robert Kramer, Founder & Strategic Advisor, National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing and Care Industry

•  Chris Mason, President and CEO, Senior Housing Managers

•  Bill Pettit, President, RD Merrill Company

•  Robyn Stone, Ph.D., SVP Research at LeadingAge and co-director of the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston

•  Daniel Schwartz, Chief Operating Office, Active Day

•  Keith Knapp, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Health Services and Senior Living Leadership, Bellarmine University (serving also in an ex-officio capacity for the leadership representatives from all sponsoring organizations)

Vision 2025 is the outgrowth of a project Olson performed while on sabbatical. The drive to grow more degree programs has accelerated from a whisper into a buzz.

Insiders agree that the key to making everything work is getting the relationships between providers and the universities to the next level.

Getting them in the same room for a couple of days in Chicago is going to be a heck of a start.

Follow Editor James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.