Staff Education and Quality Care…Do They Go Together?

Angie SzumlinskiUncategorized

Program Designed to Address Quality of Care Through Education and Certification

Heidi Keeler, PhD, RN

Nursing staff education is one area that is targeted when assessing risk and when investigating incidents. However, it is often the first
area targeted when balancing the budget in this world of ever dwindling resources. Staff education is an easy budget cut, but is this really the best for business in the long run?

Sound research on this topic is scarce in long term care. We do know that staff education is gaining recognition by numerous entities as one way to improve quality of care. The Institute of Medicine, Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, National League of Nursing and Institute for Healthcare Improvement agree that engaging nurses in lifelong learning improves overall quality of care. Providing quality care may also impact hospital referrals and overall Medicare star rating.

How is this done? It takes time and money to design a comprehensive program that empowers and equips nurses to handle problems
proactively. Additionally, nurses may have no desire to participate. How can these barriers be overcome? A motivating factor must be identified. There is evidence to support the notion that nurses with specialty certifications positively affect nursing outcomes. This is because achieving certification symbolizes achievement of excellence in that care specialty. The attainment of certification and recognition of their commitment to excellence can help nurses to overcome barriers.

Attaining and applying higher levels of evidence translates into better patient care. In addition, it has positive effects on team members. How do nurses even begin this process? To attain certification, nurses must have knowledge and practice in that specialty. Because certification exams are comprehensive and based on the ability to apply the latest evidenced-based care guidelines to
patient scenarios, structured exam preparation and specialty clinical practice experience is critical to passing the exam.

One such program to prepare nurses to take the ANCC exam in gerontological nursing is the AHCA/NCAL Gerontological Nurse Prep Course (Gero Nurse Prep). This program evolved at the University of Nebraska, and was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other partners. The course includes ten modules that address relevant issues to the nursing care of older adults,
such as skin care, incontinence, cognitive impairment, system reviews and assessments. It is cost effective, delivered in a systematic and methodical manner, and provides comprehensive continuing nursing education hours needed to qualify for the certification exam. It is an extremely convenient option as it is available 24-7 via the web. There are no travel fees, no lost time from work and is a viable option for night shift nurses as well. The current ANCC certification exam pass rate is 98% for graduates of Gero Nurse Prep verus 78% for non-graduates according to published data from ANCC.