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The need for continuing education is a Catch-22, says Marcie Barnette, RN, MSN, director of education and credentialing for Home Care University, an affiliate of the Washington, DC-based National Association for Home Care (NAHC).
"Employees won’t be able to do their work unless they have the education," she continues. If companies don’t have the money to educate workers, then employees won’t perform as well as they could. But without the appropriate budget and hence the appropriate training and credentialing, it’s not only employees who won’t be working, it’s the agency itself.
"You need to have a basic knowledge base to understand the concepts of PPS [prospective payment system]. Clinical staff, for example, need to know how to manage their staff with fewer visits. Manager and administrators are going to need to know how to understand and work with financial people and examine productivity and cost reports. [PPS] is going to bring about a new way of thinking," she concludes.
With this in mind, NAHC developed Home Care University, a self-described hybrid of a corporate and a virtual university. It’s NAHC’s first foray into the on-line education world.
"We’re not a degree-granting university," Barnette is careful to point out, "but we will be offering on-line this year programs having to do with quality management in addition to the tutorials we have on HTML and software programs like Excel and Word. The quality management course will deal with the basic concepts, things like performance improvement and risk management components along with outcomes and how to use them in affecting change."
Even though Home Care University’s on-line offerings are still in their incipient stages, Barnette sees a day not too far in the future when the curriculum will expand to "address the educational needs of all levels of staff from clinical to administrative to therapists, and of course, the paraprofessional. Within that range we see a potential for specialty programs such as wound care, diabetes, and infusion therapy. Our plan is to incorporate video wherever it seems appropriate, and we have loads and loads of footage."
Video streaming may be a bit further down the road she concedes, because of the problems with user compatibility. "You can create and put out a fantastic program with all the bells and whistles, but if they can’t open what you’re sending, it becomes a moot point. I think this will be temporary problem though as more and more organizations are getting on-line and upgrading their equipment."
Upon completion of Home Care University courses, Barnette says students will be given continuing education certificates, which will count toward their hours. So far, she says, the response has been positive and plans are in the works for teleconferences on risk management and other specialty programs.
Barnette believes that NAHC is the first home care trade association to develop an on-line education program. "I think we are on the leading edge," she says. "If there are other associations doing this, I’m not familiar with them, although I wouldn’t be at all surprised if others have things in the works. I really see this as being the wave of the future." n
• Marcie Barnette, RN, MSN, Director of Education and Credentialing, Home Care University, 228 Seventh St. S.E., Washington, DC 20003. Telephone: (202) 547-7424.