Program Rewards Long-Term Care Providers
North Carolina has created a first-in-the-nation program to help reduce the turnover of nurse aides and other direct care workers who provide hands-on care to hundreds of thousands of the state's elderly and disabled.
The NC New Organizational Vision Award (NC NOVA) is a special licensure designation awarded by the N.C. Division of Facility Services to nursing homes, adult care homes and home-care agencies that meet the new voluntary higher standards for workplace culture.
NC NOVA standards span four major areas: supportive workplaces, training, career development and balanced workloads.
The Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence (CCME) will serve as the independent reviewer, deciding whether the rigorous, comprehensive standards have been met.
CCME has been designated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services as the Quality Improvement Organization for North Carolina and South Carolina.
"NC NOVA was created to help long-term care employers improve quality by attracting and keeping quality workers to meet current and future demand," said Susan Harmuth, project manager for the North Carolina Foundation for Advanced Health Programs, the organization that developed the program. "Providers must assure consistent staffing to meet the needs of an aging population."
Legislation that created NC NOVA was sponsored by the legislative Study Commission on Aging. NC NOVA was also endorsed by the House Select Committee on Healthcare.
Other key supporters include consumer groups, direct-care workers and supervisors, regulators, researchers, and North Carolina's major long-term-care provider associations.
Like other states, North Carolina has trouble retaining direct-care workers on the job at the very time that demand for their services is growing.
In national reports workers have cited burnout, job stress, lack of meaningful career path and a lack of recognition for their contributions as some of the reasons for high turnover. NC NOVA was designed to tackle the problem head-on.
"The NC NOVA license states that this provider meets higher standards to keep a well-trained, effective and satisfied team of quality caregivers," Harmuth said. "It's good for consumers when satisfied workers stay on the job longer. Care outcomes are enhanced when there is a consistent care provider."
NC NOVA was established under a national Better Jobs Better Care (BJBC) grant to the North Carolina Foundation for Advanced Health Program. BJBC is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Atlantic Philanthropies.
"Direct-care worker vacancies and high turnover rates have serious negative consequences for providers, consumers and workers themselves," said Robyn Stone, national program director of BJBC. "These workers provide the personal interaction that is essential to quality of life and quality of care for chronically disabled individuals."
Stone is also executive director of the Institute for the Future of Aging Services and senior vice-president for research at the American Association of Homes and Ser-vices for the Aging in Washington, D.C.
NC NOVA was developed by a broad-based partner team that included all five of the state's long-term-care provider association, workers, consumers, advocates, regulators and educators.
What makes NC NOVA unique is that the state will award a separate, special license to organizations that voluntarily meet the higher workplace standards, Harmuth said.
"NC NOVA builds on the relationship between job satisfaction and quality care," she said. "To develop NC NOVA we brought all the major stakeholders to the same table to create meaningful strategies to improve the recruitment and retention of direct care workers and also improve the quality of care they provide."
The legislation creating NC NOVA takes effect Jan. 1, 2007.
The Partner Team for NC NOVA includes the Association for Home and Hospice Care of North Carolina; Direct Care Workers Association of North Carolina; Duke University Gerontological Nursing Specialty Program; Friends of Residents in Long Term Care; North Carolina Assisted Living Association; North Carolina Association, Long Term Care Facilities; North Carolina Association of Nonprofit Homes for the Aging; North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services; North Carolina Foundation for Advanced Health Programs; North Carolina Health Care Facilities Association; The Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence; and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Institute on Aging, as well as individual consumer and worker representatives.
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