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Building a Bridge to Education

October 1, 2004
by root
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How a dedicated Education Center goes beyond in-servicing to train staff by Kathleen K. Brogan, MSN, MSHEd, RN, and Anna Marshalick, MSN, RN

To address the extreme nursing shortages that exist today and are predicted for the future, long-term care facilities must develop innovative strategies to sustain a quality workforce. NewCourtland Elder Services, a network of six nursing homes for frail elders throughout Philadelphia, is finding ways to advance educational opportunities that allow direct-care workers to grow professionally.

Since its inception, NewCourtland has been laying the groundwork to expand educational and advancement programs for its employees. In 1999, NewCourtland created the PRIDE (Provide Respect, Incentives, career Development and Education) program that features the Ladder of Opportunity, an educational and career advancement program for employees, which grew rapidly. In the Ladder of Opportunity program there are clerical staff and CNAs becoming LPNs, LPNs that are attending classes to become RNs, and RNs achieving advanced nursing degrees. Therapeutic recreation classes also are available for these professionals. Within the program's first four years, hundreds of employees have taken advantage of the educational and financial opportunities provided by NewCourtland to pursue their personal and career goals.

In the process of growing its own nurses from CNA to CNA Specialist to LPN and beyond, NewCourtland realized that it was running out of space to provide the types of programming and classes necessary to meet its goals.

Why an Education Center? Because of growing interest in NewCourtland's employee retention and career development, in January 2003, Gail Kass, president and CEO of NewCourtland, approached the Board of Trustees to ask for funding to build the NewCourtland Education Center. The request was approved and construction of the center began.

In 2004, the Education Center was completed in an existing building on the Germantown Home campus (one of the six nursing homes in the NewCourtland network). The center features more than 41,000 square feet of state-of-the-art classrooms and seminar spaces, high-tech nursing labs, as well as Auten Hall-a 200-seat multipurpose auditorium dedicated to longtime Board Chairman David Auten. The grand opening was held on March 30, 2004.

Information about the Education Center and its grand opening was communicated to the network employees via letters, newsletters, NewCourtland's Web site, and information sessions. Each of the six nursing homes selected employees to serve as ambassadors during the weeklong grand-opening celebration. They were trained to serve as greeters and tour guides, as well as experts who demonstrated all of the center's technology offerings to the more than 500 visitors who toured the building that week. These ambassadors were honored to participate in the grand-opening celebrations, and the staff who toured were excited about the possibilities for the Education Center and the future.

The Education Center's goals are targeted to two key groups in the NewCourtland network-the employees and the elders. The goals are to:

  • provide a learning environment and the resources that enable nursing home staff to grow professionally, increase their job knowledge, and advance their careers in long-term care;
  • develop targeted competencies for staff to meet the complex needs of the resident;
  • provide a learning environment for residents to enrich their quality of life; and
  • enable the Education Center to become an educational hub for regional and national conferences where those who work in long-term care can learn more about eldercare.
Inside the Education Center The Education Center offers computer-based instruction, computer (user-level) classes, and high-end audiovisual presentation technologies that are integrated with sound and lighting and operated by touch screens. It can also conduct Webcasts.

The center consists of four computer-equipped classrooms, two nursing skills labs, an auditorium, and a seminar room. The nursing skills labs include six beds, which replicate hospital/nursing home settings. The labs have recording/playback equipment and mannequins (for simulated learning instruction). Auten Hall is designed to function as a lecture hall, chapel, or theater to support programs for the elders and students.

The Education Center faculty is comprised of experts in educating adult learners, including healthcare providers and others with varied and diverse backgrounds in healthcare, behavioral health, long-term care, geriatrics, and education. The team includes nurse educators, nursing home administrators, a pharmacist, a social worker, and a registered nurse assessment coordinator. A full-time technology expert assists the faculty in program preparation and presentation. The NewCourtland Education Center also partners with various educational institutions, colleges, and universities throughout the Philadelphia area, such as the 1199C Training and Upgrading School of Practical Nursing, Community College of Philadelphia, Immaculata University and the University of Pennsylvania.