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Picking the right CE course.

Continuing education can easily be a waste of your precious time. Here's how to avoid that.

Your job as a long-term care administrator is a complex and demanding one and it is getting tougher all the time.

An ever-increasing flood of federal regulations has washed over the nursing home industry in the last decade, and the new political climate has industry prophets, prognosticators and futurists predicting that more regulations are on the way. No one can deny the fact that our society is becoming more litigious, a condition that has all healthcare professionals scrambling for the cover of reliable and competent representation to guard themselves against costly and damaging litigation.

Take some specific examples: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has given the concept of job discrimination an entirely new meaning and will continue to have a tremendous impact on how you, as an employer, can achieve compliance within the parameters of the law.

Maximizing reimbursement through the development of special care units not only requires unlimited energy and exercises in strategic planning, but demands a financial footing that may, or may not, be easily realized.

While pondering the advantages of a particular architectural design, preparing for a workmen's compensation hearing, hiring a dietitian who will provide cost-efficient and nutritious meals for residents, and entering into contract negotiations with the local union representing the laundry staff, not to mention the task of becoming more than casually familiar with HCFA proposals, ADA stipulations and Medicare/Medicaid policies, you must also find time to fulfill the licensure requirements prescribed by your state board.

All of this relates directly to your need for continuing education, and of a particularly high quality, at that.

What Is Good CE?

Everyone knows the answer to that. You register for a 1-3 day educational conference in a local or a resort hotel. A distinguished faculty speaks for hours on the advantages of a management technique developed at one of the nation's leading universities. You take copious notes throughout the program and you pick up your certificate of attendance as you leave. Your state board is happy, your employer is happy and you are happy. Right?

Wrong! Although the information you received is, for the most part, applicable to your job, you were hoping to come away with some practical, hands-on solutions that would make your problem-solving easier. Instead, only the state board is satisfied, because you have successfully accumulated another 6 CE hours toward their prescribed annual goal. This may, in some way, allow you to rationalize attendance at the program: 6 hours is 6 hours. In all probability, though, you will hear yourself saying "Here we go again" when the time comes to register for yet another conference.

The truth is, this is not continuing education, and you should not have to settle for it. Your time is precious and the time you spend in CE should be time well spent.

The Keys to Success

When you begin exploring your continuing education options, you need to focus attention on three areas that will assist you in making an informed choice. You must ask yourself the following questions, and be satisfied with the answers:

1. "Is the content of the program so compelling that I just have to attend?"

2. "Can the material presented at the conference assist me in doing my job better?"

3. "Will attendance at the conference reinforce and augment my professional status?"

Basic to a successful continuing education experience is a motivational component. You have to believe in the message that is conveyed, or at least, understand that involvement in the educational program will reward you in some way. Simply stated, you must want to become involved in it because doing so will help you. You must have a stake in the results.

How do you size up the possibilities? When you receive a conference announcement brochure in the mail, reflect on what it is about the piece that grabs your attention. Like many of us, you will probably find the layout and color scheme getting your attention first. It is important, though, to get past the artwork and the marketing cues and to focus your attention on the academic content. Do the sponsors clearly describe their educational goals and objectives and, more importantly, are they specific about the benefits registrants will receive by attending the program? Have they taken the time to provide an information outline? If you notice that the brochure advertises program location and extracurricular activities but mentions program content only sketchily, at best, be suspicious. And don't be shy. Call the sponsor and ask specific questions about the program. Remember, your time is valuable, and you have problems you need to resolve.

New Choices

There are obviously many programs available, indeed, a wide variety of both traditional and self-study CE activities. The audio teleconference continues to provide learners with an inexpensive method for both planned and spontaneous education. You also have opportunities to participate in educational activities that were not available just a few years ago. Self-study video programs have been available for many years but now these videos are being re-programmed for interactive education through the use of the latest digital recording technology. The video disk presents the learner with yet another interactive choice, as do some interactive computer software programs.

Several companies currently offer live and recorded programs for satellite transmission. Downlink sites with the capability to receive satellite signals are currently located in many colleges and universities and are readily accessible for public use. A major advantage of this technology is the ability to record programs of particular interest for reference and review at a later time. In the near future, market analysts predict that private ownership of satellite dishes will be commonplace, making this learning modality not only accessible but convenient.

With such a wide, and increasing, variety of options available, look for the specific titles that can be of the greatest value to you in dealing with your specific problems or interests. After all, if you cannot transfer what you learn to your everyday routine, why bother? You should ask yourself, why you would choose this activity? If labor relations in your facility are of concern to you, for example, attending a conference on art activities for your residents probably won't help much. Don't fall into the trap of registering for programs just for the CE hours.

How Good CE Is Created

Let me offer an example of how the interests of the learner become the major consideration in developing CE programs. I am involved in the development of a series of programs having a national scope. The topics chosen are taken directly from suggestions made by previous course attendees on their course evaluation forms and through special needs assessment surveys. Preparation also includes a review of the current long-term health care literature.

I supply all of this source material to my education committee through whom recommendations for programs are made. Those ideas and suggestions that are made most frequently and for which good, current information exists become the basis from which we work.

Without question, the three most common topic suggestions offered by long-term care professionals attending courses with which I have been associated are staff management and staff relations; federal and state mandated regulation; and reimbursement and other financial issues. It is clear that these areas consistently present you with the kind of everyday problems that require immediate and successful resolution if your facility is to continue running smoothly and efficiently.

You can probably support these observations through your own needs assessment. Subsequently, your education choices will become more focused and result in thoroughly useful learning experiences.

More Criteria

It should go without saying -- but, unfortunately, sometimes doesn't -- that you should always check the credentials of the conference speaker(s) when choosing an educational activity. If it appears that s/he has little or no practical experience in confronting a specific administrative problem, chances are you will find the presentation to be inadequate and a waste of time.

Ultimately, every continuing education activity in which you participate should have a positive effect on your professionalization. The most accepted way to legitimize authority and increase the efficient use of it lies in the acquisition of knowledge. Through education you become the information source for others; you develop the skills necessary to confront policy and procedural issues in your organization; you become the professional who is effective and respected by colleagues and staff.

An Active Quest

In order to make informed continuing education choices, you must have knowledge of a reliable source, or sources, for these programs.

A good place to start your program search is through your state board and local association chapters. Lists of approved activities are usually available through state licensure boards, and associations regularly publish program calendars for your use. Do not settle for second best. Make an informed continuing education choice based on your individual needs. Providing such education is, for example, a primary goal of the American College of Health Care Administrators.

When looking for continuing education that will meet your needs, remember the three keys to making this possible:

* The program must make you want to register because it is so individualized it appears to have been developed with you in mind;

* Those problems and issues you face on a regular basis are the ones that you need to have addressed in the program you want to attend;

* Your professionalization is essential to developing a useful administrative authority, and therefore any continuing education program you attend must acknowledge this important need.

Michael Wessely, M.Ed., is Manager of Educational Programming, American College of Health Care Administrators, Alexandria, VA.


For over 25 years the American College of Health Care Administrators (ACHCA), the only professional society that represents the individual long-term care administrator, has consistently offered diverse and carefully developed educational programs aimed at providing the latest information on a variety of long-term care subjects. Through top quality seminars, audio teleconferences, executive level education programs, audio, video and traditional self-studies, and the Annual Convocation, ACHCA adheres to the principle that good continuing education is developed through regularly assessing the needs of those who should benefit the most. As a result, ACHCA is recognized by the National Association of Boards of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators through its designation as a Registered Sponsor.

For more information on ACHCA American Series programs, self-studies , and audio teleconferences call or write:

American College of Health Care Administrators 325 S. Patrick Street Alexandria, Virginia 22314 (703) 549-5822 Michael Wessely, M.Ed.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:continuing education
Author:Wessely, Michael
Publication:Nursing Homes
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Previous Article:A young administrator looks at training.
Next Article:How administrator characteristics correlate with licensure exam performance: test results show a changing picture in nursing home administration.

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