Nurses and certified nurse assistants (CNAs) in Washington nursing centers will soon benefit from new training on evidence-based practices. The Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has awarded Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders (NICHE), a nurse-driven program based at New York University (NYU) Rory Meyers College of Nursing, a grant of over $644,000 to improve the quality of care for older adults living in Washington state nursing centers.

The grant is funded by the Civil Money Penalty Reinvestment Program, an initiative by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that aims to reduce adverse events, improve staffing quality, and enhance dementia care in nursing centers.

“We are excited to have this partnership in our state with 30 of our nursing homes, teaching nurses and nurse assistants regarding evidence-based practices for older adults,” said Candace Goehring, RN, director of Residential Care Services, Aging and Long Term Support Administration, DSHS. “We look forward to the continuous improvement in the quality of care and services for our nursing home residents.”

The three-year project, which begins Jan. 1, 2020, will provide nurses and CNAs with specialized education and leadership development training to implement evidence-based care. Participating nursing centers will be selected in early 2020. The project has the potential to benefit more than 3,000 Washingtonians living in nursing centers, according to a statement from NYU.

“We are so pleased to work with NYU to bring the NICHE program to 30 skilled nursing facilities in Washington,” says Melissa Lawton, civil money penalty grant specialist for Washington DSHS. “This nurse-led project will truly make a difference in the lives of nursing facility residents in our state and is a wonderful addition to our current Civil Money Penalty Reinvestment Program.”

The number of residents in nursing centers is growing, along with the demand for nursing centers to offer more complex services, according to a statement from NYU. This is due to hospital stays shortening and Americans living longer and facing more complicated medical issues and disabilities as they age.

Sources at NYU say that the new program will help nurses working in long term care settings boost their knowledge of evidence-based care necessary to best meet the needs of older adults. For example, caring for older adults requires specialized assessment skills to differentiate normal changes related to aging from signs of diseases like dementia.

NICHE is an education and consultation program that aims to improve quality of care for older adults by elevating nurse and staff competence in the specialty practice area of geriatric nursing. It has more than 600 member organizations, including hospitals and nursing centers.

“Nursing homes play an important role in ensuring the health and safety of frail elders with complex needs,” said Jennifer Pettis, RN, associate director of the NICHE long term care program at NYU Meyers. “We are thrilled to collaborate with the Washington Department of Social and Health Services to arm nurses with evidence-based practices allowing them to provide the best possible care for the state’s aging population.”

Nurse participants will begin with an eight-week online leadership training program, during which they will work with NICHE’s expert mentors to develop a quality improvement project focusing on two clinical areas. NICHE’s mentors and faculty will then provide support to nursing center teams in preparing action plans.

 Additionally, nursing staff at the nursing centers will complete specialized continuing education courses on the care of older adults. The training and projects will focus on a number of health issues that affect older adults, including preventing falls, assessing and managing pain, and identifying depression and dementia.

“Research shows that NICHE organizations have improved patient outcomes, decreased costs, and reduced hospital readmissions, all of which have led to higher older adult and staff satisfaction,” said Mattia Gilmartin, PhD, RN, executive director of the NICHE program at NYU Meyers. “We look forward to working closely with our new NICHE members in Washington to enhance the quality of care in their nursing homes.”

To evaluate resident outcomes associated with the program, NICHE has partnered with Comagine Health, a Washington quality improvement organization. Researchers will analyze data gathered from frontline staff through their clinical practice improvement projects, as well as publicly reported quality measures, to evaluate the outcomes of this project.