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How does your hospice agency approach staff education? Research shows that access to continuing education plays a crucial role in satisfaction.

How does your hospice agency approach staff education? Do you see staff education as valuable, contributing to the health of your organization? Is it a tool to increase financial health or do you consider it as nothing more than a drain on your finances?

Research shows that access to continuing education for nurses plays a crucial role in staff satisfaction.

A recent Accenture study looked at the effectiveness of Cigna’s employee education reimbursement program. Participants in the program had a retention rate 8% higher than non-participants. The program generated a 129% return on investment due to increased retention, which cut hiring and training costs.

In addition, nurses with advanced training specific to their care setting are better able to anticipate the needs of their patients, thereby improving patient outcomes.

Given the current staffing shortages and the shift in healthcare reimbursement to value-based purchasing, healthcare organizations will benefit from providing their staff with ongoing education that helps to grow their skill set.

Look again at your agency’s approach to staff education. Maybe your hospice agency crafts an annual education plan to meet the needs of both incoming and current staff. Perhaps your approach is more reactionary, pulling in available resources as education needs arise.

We know the availability of educational resources varies from agency to agency.

Some agencies have all their training online, while others take a more blended approach, combining online learning with in-person training for more complicated topics or topics which lend themselves to a more interactive training format. Some agencies have fully fleshed out training binders that contain all the content that new employees need. Others have similar content online. Some agencies develop and present content as the need arises rather than working from standardized content and structure.

No matter the system and resources available, most hospice agencies say orienting new staff and keeping up with required training takes all their education and training resources, leaving little time or money for any educational opportunities beyond that.

Staff education needs to be about more than annual requirements, though.

Your caregivers are priceless assets. Invest in them.

Your staff is your most valuable resource. Investing in them, ensuring they have a strong foundation, and then building on that foundation is not only an investment in their future but also an investment in the success of your organization.

You are in a tough situation though, staffing is tight, and expenses are up due to COVID; maybe education can be more of a priority next year, right? You might want to reconsider that thinking.

Continuing education impacts satisfaction.

Research shows a direct correlation between staff education and patient satisfaction. Staff who are well prepared for their roles and knowledgeable about current best practices provide better care.

Staff who are better equipped to recognize early signs of emerging symptoms, disease progression, and early symptoms of dying are better able to prepare patients and families. They can also work collaboratively to manage symptoms and minimize burdensome transfers, which are distressing to patients and families.

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Consider the mom with breast cancer.

She has chosen hospice care at this point in her life because treatment is no longer stopping the advancement of her cancer. She wants to enjoy time with her family and her dog. She looks forward to spending time sitting in the sun in her garden. Her husband and two adult daughters are caring for her.

During a routine nursing visit, the daughter asks about some twitching she noticed while helping her mom shower that morning.

The nurse recognized that breast cancer could spread to the brain and knows that seizures could be a concern. She collaborated with the physician to get a plan in place to manage seizures should they occur. The patient and family were educated on what to do if a seizure happened. The nurse reinforced the teaching on subsequent visits. The social worker provided support, talking through what might happen, and helped the family develop some coping mechanisms that turned out to be very helpful and got them through the scary feelings associated with seeing their mom/wife have a seizure.

This hospice agency had invested in its staff, providing specialized training in managing complex hospice symptoms.

The family received the education and support they needed to honor the patient’s wish to remain at home.

Positive experiences such as this are reflected in higher satisfaction scores for the hospice.

The associated decrease in emergency room visits and hospitalizations helps families support their loved one’s goal to remain at home.

In addition, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) gathers data on burdensome transfers as a part of the Hospice Quality Reporting Program. This data will become increasingly important as the hospice payment model shifts to value-based purchasing.

Providing more training to your staff

The real challenge for hospice agencies is to figure out how to offer more training to their staff.

Training is more than an investment in materials, a training platform, or a trainer. It means time away from patient care and the cost of covering that care while the learner is studying. It means having access to current, relevant content. It means implementing the training and evaluating its effectiveness.

We encourage you to figure out a way to provide the additional training to bring your agency to the next level. Show your staff you value them by investing in their success. Position your agency for success ahead of the shift to value-based purchasing. Be a leader in the hospice industry.

Day in and day out, you want your patient experiences to look like that of the mom, home with her family and dog, enjoying her sunny deck, and able to remain comfortably at home despite some new seizures.

Had the family not been as well prepared, she would likely have ended up with a panicked family and an emergency room visit, and your agency quality data would have reflected the unexpected and undesired hospitalization.

Nurses who are well trained can anticipate what comes next, educate families on what to expect, and quickly and effectively manage distressing symptoms.

This high level, quality care is the level of care you want your organization to provide. It is the level of care you want for yourself and your loved ones.

Start small by adding an enrichment course or two to your annual training. Evaluate the return on investment and grow your program from there.

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