In talking to young students and potential future workers for their communities, leaders at one Minnesota-based eldercare provider noticed that references and knowledge typically were hospital-oriented.

So they decided to try something “bold” and fill the knowledge gap themselves by working directly with nursing faculty.

Shoreview, MN-based Ecumen — which has about 30 communities, one-third of which provide skilled nursing — has newly partnered with Minnesota State University-Mankato to begin addressing its staffing and recruitment concerns. They hosted a free workshop last week to educate university faculty about everything from dementia and delirium, to best practices in geriatric nursing.

“When we’ve been out trying to connect with nurses or nursing students who come into our communities during clinicals, it’s pretty clear to us that they were really amazed at what we do in long-term care or in our other business lines. But they weren’t really getting that in the classroom,” Brett Anderson, RN, Ecumen’s vice president of nursing services, told McKnight’s on Tuesday. “That puts us at a big disadvantage when you’re trying to attract people to a growing field where there’s going to be a lot of demand.”

Ecumen also has used a grant for a few years to fund internships and externships so nursing students can experience senior care. Operators kept hearing from students that they weren’t getting enough core knowledge about eldercare in the classroom, so attention turned toward staff at local universities.

“We overwhelmingly heard from faculty that they are really interested in learning more, but they don’t know how to go about it,” Anderson said.

It all led to the creation of Ecumen’s new workshop, “Enhancing Your Clinical Toolbox: Best Practices in Geriatric Care for Nursing Faculty in TCU and LTC,” which was held last week at the university’s simulation center and at Ecumen Pathstone Living, both in Mankato. Fourteen university staffers went through the pilot program, earning a certificate of completion and 15 contact hours.

Anderson said organizers purposely tried to keep things small, resulting in a “strong” wait list of individuals who didn’t make the cut. He said he’s looking into hosting another event, possibly as early as later this year.

“Engage,” Anderson advised other providers looking for workforce help. “We already had these relationships established with our local two-year schools and our universities, but just lean into those relationships. They are just as motivated to stay on top of their curriculum and emerging trends in the healthcare marketplace. Lean into it, get around the same table. Be bold.”