(Dec. 2, 2008)
The Eastern Area Health Education Center and East Carolina University are working together to develop a curriculum to advance the educational levels of administrators at long-term care facilities with help from a grant of more than $700,000.
The Department of Public Health at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU, along with the colleges of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences, will work with Eastern AHEC to put together a curriculum to enable administrators who lack bachelor's degrees to obtain those degrees. It will also allow those who have degrees to pursue a master's of public health degree and will provide continuing education for long-term care administrators. Eastern AHEC will provide the continuing education portion.
"This grant will establish ECU as a statewide leader in meeting the workforce crisis in long-term care," said Dr. Lloyd Novick, chair of the Department of Public Health at ECU.
By 2020, North Carolina will need an additional 16,673 skilled nursing home beds to meet the demand from the aging population, many of whom have or will have chronic diseases, according to information in ECU's grant application.
The $710,484 grant is from The Duke Endowment, and the project is supported by the N.C. Health Care Facilities Association, long-term care providers, the ECU Department of Family Medicine and others.
The three parts of the project - baccalaureate degree education, master's degree education and continuing education - will be valuable for professionals in the industry, said Craig Souza, executive director of the NCHCFA.
"It gives people who have decided they want to make long-term care a career the same career ladder other health care professionals get," Souza said, adding the program will be good for residents of long-term care facilities and their families.
Dr. Gordon DeFriese, a senior research fellow at the Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and former president and chief executive officer of the N.C. Institute of Medicine, agreed. "The real beneficiaries of this extraordinary effort by ECU will be the thousands of individuals and their families who will depend on our state's nursing homes to meet their health care needs in the future," he said.
ECU will teach courses on its health sciences campus and through distance education for administrators and directors of nursing working full-time in the long-term care field. ECU expects to add two faculty positions to help teach the curriculum.
"With the aging of our population, long-term care is a huge component," said Robbie Hill, an ECU trustee and chief executive of Hillco, a Kinston-based company that operates more than 50 skilled nursing facilities. He added that the program will make it easier for long-term care professionals to stay abreast of the latest trends and research.
The requirement in North Carolina for licensed nursing home administrators is 60 hours of post-secondary education with an administrator-in-training requirement of specified duration depending on the person's educational level. That is set by the Board of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators. Ruth Little, a former nursing home administrator and associate professor of public health at ECU, will manage the long-term care project.
Little surveyed all 50 states, with 44 states responding; 36 states require baccalaureate degrees and three states require an associate's degree.
"It is exciting to formally integrate long-term care into the public health arena using experienced practitioners in our education and training," said Little, who has a master's of public health degree. "This training continuum meets the long-term care industry where it is at, providing opportunities for those with associate degrees to obtain their baccalaureate degree online in health services administrati