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Changing the Culture and Quality of Care in Indiana Nursing Homes

December 12, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS - Thirty-eight thousand people live in nursing homes in Indiana. Last year, six struggling facilities in Lake County took part in a leadership initiative to change their work culture and improve the quality of care.

Kathy Johnson, vice president of clinical and regulatory services with the Indiana Association of Homes and Services for the Aging - soon to be Leading Age Indiana - says nursing-assistant staff turnover in long-term care facilities is over 70 percent annually.

"We lose a lot of folks by the first break, sometimes when we don't really have a good orientation plan set up for them and some good training and a warm welcome."

Johnson says changing the culture within the facility by improving hiring practices and relationships helps with staff retention and results in better care. Twenty long-term care facilities in South Bend took part this year, and 25 in Central Indiana will begin the initiative in January.

Johnson says long-term care administrators need to be more skillful in their interviewing for staff positions and not just hire the first warm body with the right license.

"They should really look at the person's character rather than work experience and things like that. You can teach skills, but it's hard to teach character."

Johnson says it was a hard sell at first to get nursing homes to commit to the leadership initiative, but it has been worth it.

"After facilities attended the sessions, there has been nothing but positive things. Just the fact that 20 facilities started in South Bend and 20 facilities will end is pretty impressive."

Jim Leich, CEO of Leading Age Indiana, says too many of Indiana's long-term care facilities are stuck in the mindset of being an institution.

"Many residents are there for a long period of time, and it's their home. Therefore, we want our homes to be structured in a way that fits how residents live and what they want, rather than like a hospital, which is run on schedules."

Leich says the goal of the leadership initiative is to improve the culture and quality of care in all of Indiana's long-term care facilities.

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN