Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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March 17, 2014

New Veterans' Home chief aims to improve care

(Continued)

Despite her lack of formal training or experience running a long-term health care facility, Sharp believes her military background and experience as a nursing administrator have positioned her well.

“Serving as the commander of a combat support hospital has given me a broad foundation to lead a diverse group of people in a complex health care organization,” she said. “The military molded me.”

Andrea Smothers, ombudsman for Area IV Agency on Aging and Community Action Program, fields complaints about care at nursing homes in Tippecanoe and surrounding counties. Familiar with the darker days of the home’s past, she said she’s noticed improvements in the past year. She called Sharp “very patient focused.”

Smothers said 2013 saw a marked decrease in complaints lodged by residents or residents’ families. She said a reduction in staff turnover, which was quite high under the previous permanent superintendent, is helping.

For a resident living in a nursing facility, there are three shifts of caregivers per day, meaning up to 21 different people caring for one resident in a week, Smothers said. And if caregivers don’t get to know a resident, they can’t know what is abnormal.

“That’s not providing quality care,” Smothers said. “Things aren’t caught early, and (that) impacts overall health.”

Sharp said that when she took over as interim and then full-time director of nursing in 2013, reducing staff turnover and increasing training were her priorities.

One change aimed at staff retention is a program that enables new employees to become certified nurse aides while working at the home. New hires spend two weeks in the classroom, then go out onto the floor, Sharp said.

They are paid during training and tested by Ivy Tech Community College, so their training is universal, Sharp said, and they are familiar with standards of care at the home from the start.

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