A program that placed administrators-in-training into the shoes of nursing home residents helped promote person-centered care, new research finds.

Researchers with the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire developed a 24-hour simulation program that placed administrators-in-training in the role of a nursing home resident, in order to gain insights into residents’ experiences that they might not be able to share themselves. In total, 159 students participated in the program at 93 different nursing homes between 2013 and 2015.

The participants’ findings, published last week in the Patient Experience Journal, were categorized as “Always Experiences,” an idea created by patient-centered care advocates to capture “aspects of the patient experience that are so important to patients and families that healthcare providers should always get them right.”

The research team compiled Always Experiences in six fields — admissions, care planning, care, dining, activities and responsiveness — which were further broken down into suggested practices for providers. The Always Experiences are:

  • Residents should feel welcomed and comfortable when they first arrive
  • The resident should be involved, informed and have input in all decisions about their care
  • Residents should always be given the best care possible while respecting their dignity and autonomy
  • Resident preferences should be considered and respected so that the dining experience is comfortable and enjoyable
  • Residents’ concerns and requests should be promptly addressed by staff
  • Resident should have the option to participate in meaningful and enjoyable activities that align with their interests

Steps recommended by the researchers to meet those experiences include responding to call lights in a timely manner, respecting residents’ privacy, documenting residents’ food preferences, establishing an open door policy for residents and staff, and conducting assessments to figure out which activities line fit best with residents’ interests.

Study author Jennifer L. Johs-Artisensi, MPH, Ph.D., said the majority of the project’s findings are dependent on the behavior of staff, especially nursing assistants, and having a system in place to get resident feedback and track data. She also noted that although some of the recommendations, such as meeting individual residents’ requests, “may seem idealistic,” past research has shown that even idealistic resident-centered care practices can help motivate employees.

“As person-centered care gains traction in long-term care, the need for administrators to be able to translate a philosophy of care into actual practices that change the experience of their care recipients is critical,” Johs-Artisensi wrote.

Click here to see the complete findings of the Resident for a Day experiment.