Nursing Staff Certification
Every hospice employs registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and state tested nursing assistants (STNAs) to provide the hands-on nursing and personal care for which hospice is so well loved and so highly regarded.
But Ohio’s Hospice goes well beyond the basic minimums set by the state of Ohio and Medicare by requiring all of its nursing staff to also be certified by the leading national organization for end-of-life care nursing, the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (HPNA). It’s a standard that few, if any, other hospice providers can match.
It’s a commitment driven by a mission to provide superior care and superior services, a fierce determination to set an unparalleled standard for quality care, and a desire to provide employees with both a fulfilling job and opportunities for career development and advancement.
“We do this because we believe certification simply reflects our mission to provide superior care,” says Brandi Barlow, Ohio’s Hospice vice president of Administration, Human Resources, Education and Volunteer Services. “Our staff are able to show they have this level of knowledge and expertise in caring for hospice patients. It brings us to a higher level compared to other providers.”
How It Works
Within two years of joining Ohio’s Hospice, every nurse and nursing assistant must achieve HPNA certification, which requires passing a comprehensive exam. Certification is a requirement for continued employment.
Ohio’s Hospice makes a considerable investment each year in supporting its nurses in their pursuit of certification. It provides test preparation courses, a practice test, and coaching and counseling after the practice test. Participants are paid for their time in class, and Ohio’s Hospice pays for the cost of the certification test. Anyone who fails to pass the test on a first try receives additional support before taking a re-test.
Upon obtaining certification, nurses and nursing assistants receive an hourly rate increase that amounts to more than $1,000 a year and are launched on their way to building a career path at Ohio’s Hospice.
Julie Wickline, senior director of Education and Staff Development at Ohio’s Hospice, observes that, “Success breeds success. Yes, everyone appreciates the pay bump. But it really is rewarding to see how our team members want their certification because their colleagues have it. They recognize the value.”
Additional Development Opportunities for Hospice Professionals
Ohio’s Hospice long has offered tuition reimbursement to support all staff in developing a fulfilling career ladder. New in 2020 is a scholarship program to recruit and train STNAs. Nursing assistants have the most frequent contact with hospice patients; they provide the personal care that allows hospice patients to live in comfort and dignity. It is not just one of the hardest jobs in hospice — from a human resources perspective. It’s also one of the most difficult recruitment and retention challenges for any hospice provider.
Looking for innovative solutions, Ohio’s Hospice resolved to invest in expanding the pool of available nursing assistants.
“We began partnering with area colleges to offer a tuition-free, four-week educational program for prospective nursing assistants. Participants are hired prior to starting the program and are paid their regular salary during the 75 hours of coursework. In addition to their classroom work, students work alongside a preceptor caring for patients for two months before they begin seeing patients on their own,” Barlow says. “In addition to the candidate’s salary and benefits and tuition of approximately $650, Ohio’s Hospice also pays the $100 cost of the state’s STNA exam.”
The program is attracting both recent high school graduates as well as people returning to the workforce or looking for a career change, Barlow explains.
“This came about because we asked our recruitment team to think outside the box to ensure we have the staff we need to provide superior care,” she says. “They asked, what makes Ohio’s Hospice attractive to entry-level candidates? What can we do to get people to join our team? We have excellent educational opportunities and an extensive orientation program. So why not pay candidates to go to class and support them as they begin their journey with Ohio’s Hospice?”
Investing in the Community by Investing in Staff
While some of these education and career development activities necessarily were put on hold as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the two-year requirement to obtain HPNA certification, Ohio’s Hospice continues to look for ways to invest in its own staff as a way of investing in the communities it is privileged to serve.