WPR: Educating nursing home administrators to meet urgent need

Team of doctor and nurse hard at work to care for their patients and using technology to analyse their files and results

Suzanna Waters Castillo, PhD and course instructor, is recognized nationally as a leader in professional development in geriatric mental health care. When Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) reported on funding shortfalls and worker shortage in nursing homes across the state, Waters Castillo shared her perspective as the director of Aging and Long-Term Care for University of Wisconsin–Madison Continuing Studies.

The cause, according to providers and local counties, is the Wisconsin’s low Medicaid reimbursement rate. Advocates are asking lawmakers to invest $83.3 million in the next two-year budget to recruit and retain long-term care staff.

Medical care shortages extreme in rural areas

Waters Castillo: UW-Madison's online and correspondence course helps nursing home administrators improve skills while staying in their communities
Waters Castillo: UW-Madison’s online and correspondence course helps nursing home administrators improve skills while staying in their communities

Waters Castillo pointed out that regions such as northern Wisconsin experience two threats: poverty and “brain drain,” in which younger generations leave the area.

She noted that the shortage of direct-care workers in nursing facilities has been happening for decades. Salaries and benefits for care workers are often substandard.

It’s also increasingly expensive to provide care for the elderly, who often have complex, chronic conditions.

Empty beds but no nurses

The shortfalls from Medicaid mean nursing homes simply can’t cover their costs. According to the WPR story, 27 skilled nursing facilities have closed in Wisconsin since 2016.

They’ve all had to shift their patients to other facilities—and the wait is long, because there are empty beds but no staff to care for the patients.

Distance ed course prepares long-term care professionals for nursing home administration licensure

The Wisconsin Idea is fundamental to UW-Madison: that education should influence people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom. As such, distance education in the form of correspondence courses has been part of the university nearly since its inception 170 years ago.

And, in rural areas facing nursing shortages, a correspondence course and its online equivalent are part of the solution.

Waters Castillo teaches Nursing Home Administration Licensure Preparation, a one-year independent study course that prepares long-term care professionals for their licensure exam. Working from their home or business, students explore long-term care, chronic conditions, ethical concerns, social services, management, finance, human resources, accounting, and other topics. To apply, students must have experience working in a skilled nursing facility.

The course can be started at any time and registration is easily completed online.

As Waters Castillo noted, we need to keep people working in our rural areas, especially in nursing homes. The UW-Madison course means they have access to the training that allows them to advance in their careers, without leaving their communities to do so.

Explore the Nursing Home Administration Licensure Preparation correspondence course and online course.