Fusion involves joining two or more objects together to form a single entity. It’s been vital to innovation in, among other things, food, music, and business. For example, a new genre of music was created in the 1960s when musicians combined aspects of jazz with styles from funk, rock, and rhythm and blues. In a similar way, chefs fuse elements of traditional fare to create new culinary delights. 

In long term and post-acute care (LT/PAC), innovation will happen as providers begin to embrace fusion with well-deserving collaborators.

In 2014, alumnus of Jacksonville University (JU) in Jacksonville, Fla. and senior housing developer, Greg Nelson, purchased 62 acres adjacent to his alma mater. The goal: to fuse education and senior care, providing innovative senior housing in Jacksonville, ancillary medical benefits to the Arlington Community, which borders Jacksonville’s St. Johns River and is home to JU, and unique educational opportunities to JU students. The model of senior living and universities teaming up isn’t new; however, the level of collaboration and proximity of locations is unique.

Dolphin Pointe, a 120-private suite skilled nursing facility, is set to open mid-2018, and is the first phase of what will eventually encompass independent living, assisted living, and an urgent care hospital—all a stone’s throw from JU. Clear Choice Health Care, senior living management consultants based in Melbourne, Fla., will operate the facility.

What follows are lessons already learned from this unique project.

Passion Effects Change

Passion, well-placed, can change lives and delivery systems. The idea for Dolphin Pointe started with Nelson and his associations with the university. His enthusiasm and vision for the project will touch countless others.

When seniors in Jacksonville get injured or require surgery, studies show they want a state-of-the-art yet serene and non-institutional setting to heal. Dolphin Pointe’s collaboration with JU’s College of Heathcare Sciences offers advanced recovery techniques with 120 exclusively private suites, providing patients a unique care experience and getting them home faster, with comfort and less pain. 

The educational fusion will help Dolphin Pointe residents be life-long pursuers of learning, by participating in campus classroom instruction and performing arts programs, bringing a highly sought after intergenerational environment to Dolphin Pointe residents. Mentoring and volunteering by both students and residents—serving and learning together—will foster a vibrant culture of learning, growth, and life enrichment for all. Since they are teamed with academia, facility staff members will incorporate innovative equipment, bringing a “pioneering” paradigm among management and staff which will directly impact seniors’ quality of care.   

Meeting Demand with Education

Next, the project will benefit students looking for more training and practicum. With a facility next door, students will receive more robust clinical, volunteer, and hospitality training, producing job-ready, skilled graduates. This will help with the dilemma of workforce shortages which affects the LT/PAC profession by providing future caregivers with the latest evidence-based experience in rehabilitation techniques. 

Christine Sapienza, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, and dean, Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Science, understands the value a skilled nursing facility “on campus” brings. During her tenure as dean, she’s seen the demand for health care services professionals skyrocket. Higher education has been challenged to provide deeper training so that students are job-ready immediately upon graduation. Sapienza sees Dolphin Pointe—and other likeminded projects—a key answer to this need. She also believes where an intergenerational mix of communities can be developed, perspectives will be enhanced. This mix could be young teaching old or old teaching young, with mentorship and solid communication.

Redevelopment Ahead

The project also benefits the development of the local area. With the hope of over 500 new jobs coming to the area, Dolphin Pointe’s innovative use of land and resources in the Arlington community is already serving as a catalyst for revitalization and re-development of this historic economic corridor, providing ancillary medical services for seniors and students alike. Community health care providers will benefit from having the region’s most advanced recovery setting, including innovative staff, state-of-the-art modalities, and pioneering techniques. 

Greg’s passion to help his alma mater, its students and community catapulted great ideas into an energy-rich environment; now they are becoming reality and affecting change. 

Changing Old with New

Many emergency discharges from nursing centers are unnecessary; most take place in an attempt to avoid liability, but happen at the risk of residents suffering exposure, disruption, and infection. This part of the system needs improvement. 

Phase two of the Dolphin Pointe project will include the building of an urgent care facility onsite. When residents experience, for example, what looks to be heart palpitations, they will be examined by a nurse practitioner from the urgent care, providing concierge-level attention. The nurse practitioner will have the latitude to make immediate triage decisions, perhaps saving the resident a trip to the emergency room. This type of care delivery is not happening elsewhere and is a win from all angles. 

Old systems of care delivery can and will change as new partners help serve our clients’ needs. 

A Symbiotic Mission

Starting in 2022, the master degree in occupational therapy will no longer be this discipline’s terminal degree—the highest degree awarded in this academic discipline. JU’s first cohort of occupational therapy doctorate students will enter the program in the spring of 2018. The former JU alumni house, now part of Dolphin Pointe, is being converted into a living ADLs laboratory and will also serve as a transition point for Dolphin Pointe outpatient care. This facility—with 6,000 square feet of living room, dining room, bathroom, stairs, kitchen setting and common area—is unique in the country and is just steps away from the inpatient facility. By providing these benefit to patients, JU is also staying ahead of the curve. Collaboration fueled this fusion of practicum and care, benefitting both students and seniors. One entity without the other could not produce such formidable results. 

Everyone brings to the LT/PAC industry a unique set of experiences, passion, goals and resources. Change will come after looking for ways to combine these assets with other likeminded organizations. 

Trial and error will be inevitable. Some new sounds and smells won’t mix. Correct fusion is an art requires a good dose of purpose to get the balance just right.

Geoff Fraser is senior vice president at Clear Choice Health Care and Greg Nelson is president at Nelson Holdings. Learn more about Clear Choice Health Care here​.