What Does it Mean to Study Long Term Care?
A long term care degree program involves learning how to manage the business and administrative aspects of residential care for the elderly and chronically ill. Managing nursing homes, assisted living facilities, retirement communities, hospices, or institutions require professionals who possess a sound understanding of business theory and can apply and supervise its delivery in the dynamic environment of health care. Long term care professionals need leadership and critical thinking skills to succeed in this unique business environment, but must also be able to focus on the practical aspects of long term care itself.
Health services managers deal with evolving integrated healthcare delivery systems, technological innovations, and an increasingly complex regulatory environment. They may be responsible for millions of dollars' worth of facilities and equipment and the supervision of hundreds of employees. Long term care managers must be familiar with management principles and practices, overseeing finances and information systems, and be able to interpret data. But making decisions is only half the battle. Motivating others to implement those decisions requires strong leadership abilities as well as great communication skills.
Types of Long-Term Care Degrees
An associate degree is generally required for bachelor of long-term care degree programs, but can be from a variety of fields such as liberal arts, sciences, or business. Graduates with bachelor's degrees in health administration usually begin as administrative assistants or assistant department heads. They also may begin as department heads or assistant administrators in small nursing care facilities.
The degrees come under names such as Associate in Healthcare Administration, major in Administration or Long-term Care and Retirement Facilities, Bachelor of Science degree in Healthcare Management, and Master of Public Administration.
For practicing administrators, certificate programs can serve as a refresher course, meet state licensure regulations and meet continuing education requirements for licensing.
Most States require a bachelor's degree for licensure at a local level. With a Bachelor of Science degree in Long Term Care or Healthcare Management, you'll also have the educational credentials you need to work toward your master's degree and move into higher levels of healthcare administration.
A master's degree in health services administration, long-term care administration, health sciences, public health, public administration, or business administration is the standard credential for most generalist positions in this field, but a bachelor's degree is adequate for some entry-level positions in smaller facilities.
What Can You Do With a College Degree in Long-Term Care?
Long-term care administrators and managers make sure their facilities are running efficiently -- balancing the compassionate need to provide healthcare with the need to maintain a healthy operating budget. University training can include instruction in business office operations, business and financial record-keeping, personnel supervision, policy administration, conference planning, scheduling and coordination, public relations, and applicable law and regulations.
Most health services managers work long hours. Long term care facilities operate around the clock, and administrators and managers may be called at all hours to deal with problems. In smaller facilities, administrators handle more of the details of daily operations. For example, many nursing home administrators manage personnel, finance, facility operations and admissions, and have a larger role in resident care.
Long-Term Care Certification and Licensure
All States and the District of Columbia require nursing care facility administrators to have a bachelor's degree, pass the national licensing examination, complete a State-approved training program, and pursue continuing education. The National Association of Boards of Examiners of Long Term Care Administrators (NAB) develops the national exam and sets the passing scores. Every nursing home in the country that provides Medicare and Medicaid services must operate under the supervision of a state licensed administrator. The state licensing boards set the eligibility requirements for the national exam and most require that an administrator take the state licensing exam as well.
Many states' licensure requirements include the completion of an Administrator-in-Training (AIT) program. AIT programs are usually 6 months or 1,000 hours long. The re-licensure requirements in most states include obtaining 20-50 continuing education credits per year.
The American College of Health Care Administrators offers a voluntary Certification Program which designates excellence in the profession for either Nursing Home Administration or Assisted Living Administration. The certification recognizes administrators and managers who are performing at an advanced level of skill and knowledge. Certified Nursing Home Administrators may receive licensure reciprocity in participating states. Certification reflects a commitment to residents, families and staff and demonstrates a commitment to gaining new knowledge and, ultimately, applying it within the facilities.