Long Term Care Education, Schools and Career Overview
According to the United States Census Bureau, "By 2035, there will be 78.0 million people 65 years and older compared to 76.4 million under the age of 18." If these predictions come true, then older people will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history. Old age brings with it a host of important considerations, and long term care is one of the more prominent ones: according to LongTermCare.gov, "Someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long term care services and supports in their remaining years."
Education Requirements for Long Term Care
Long term care degree programs typically offer laboratory and classroom instruction, along with clinical experiences in a supervised environment. Course subjects may include pharmacology, psychology, gerontology, physical therapy and nutrition.
The following are examples of long term care courses that you may take as part of an educational program in long term care:
- Disease Management: Diabetes is one of the most common ailments among people who live in long term care facilities. It can lead to serious health problems for older people, including blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, and ailments in the lower extremities. Another common ailment among seniors is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Disease management courses can teach students techniques for treating diabetes, COPD, and other common diseases, as well as techniques that can help to make these conditions more manageable for sufferers in long term care facilities.
- Fall Prevention: When an elderly person, especially a person who has suffered bone loss, takes a non-lethal fall, the resulting injuries can have a very detrimental impact on their quality of life. In courses on fall prevention, long term care professionals can be trained to identify falling risk factors for elderly individuals, along with assessment and evidence-based strategies for intervention in case long term care residents do fall.
- Long Term Care Ethics: Many younger people, including aspiring long term care providers, have prejudiced beliefs toward senior citizens. For example, the image of an elderly woman as a sweet old lady may produce a belief that all elderly women are frail and dependent upon others. This bias may keep that provider from seeing an elderly woman as a person with a full life and a rich history. Education on ageism and similar prejudices is important for overcoming these prejudices, and for better understanding the process of aging in general.
- Mentoring Programs: Many courses are designed to develop and implement mentoring programs as a retention strategy for long term care facilities. Education in this area may include a mentoring kit -- to assist trainees in speeding up the development process -- and/or a formal mentoring program tailored to each student’s needs and abilities.
You may be able to enroll in a long term care training program by contacting the long term care facility for which you would like to work, or a vocational school or community college in your area. You can also check with your state’s division of health facilities evaluation and licensing program to see if that organization can send you a list of approved training programs.
Once one completes his or her long term care provider education and training, he or she will still need to be become certified to work in a long term care facility. Here are some tips on how to do just that.
There are several colleges and universities that offer long term care degree programs. Some colleges even make these degree programs available online, a format that can be more convenient for people who are working jobs with busy schedules. Here are a few such schools:
- Louisiana State University-Alexandria campus
- Pfeiffer University
- Weber State University
- Mary Baldwin University
Certification requirements for long term care providers can vary from state to state, and from year to year. It's wise to check with your state in order to make sure you have all of the information regarding possible requirements for your chosen long term care career.
Long Term Care Certification Information
In most states, nursing aides and other long term care providers must complete a certain state-sponsored curriculum to be awarded a certification in the long term care field. Registered nurses – the most common long term care occupation – must become registered by completing an associate or bachelor's degree program in the nursing field. Aspiring registered nurses must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and complete continuing education requirements that are unique to their state.
For example, aspiring long term care nurses in New Jersey must complete the state’s curriculum for Nurse Aide in Long Term Care Facilities Training and Competency Evaluation Program (NATCEP) or the New Jersey Curriculum for Personal Care Assistants (PCA) if they wish to become employed at a long term care facility or an assisted living facility, respectively. The training course for the NATCEP is 90 hours. These hours need to include at least 40 clinical hours and 50 classroom hours. In contrast, the training course for the PCA is 85 hours. These hours must include 69 classroom hours, along with 16 clinical hours at an assisted living facility, assisted living program, or comprehensive personal care home within the state.
Those who wish to become long term care providers will find that most states have similar requirements to those that are listed above.
Long Term Care Certification through Reciprocity or Equivalency
In most cases, long term care providers who are certified in one state but would like to provide long term care in another state will be eligible for admission in that state, as long as they meet the following conditions:
- The new state's long term care department needs to be provided with documentation from the registry of the previous state or U.S. territory that proves that the person has satisfied a training and competency evaluation program that is, at the very least, equal to the training and competency evaluation programs of the new state.
- The applicant must be free of convictions of all crimes and have no record of neglect, abuse, or misappropriation of resident property in his or her previous state or U.S. territory.
- The applicant must agree to and pass a criminal background check. This includes finishing a criminal background investigation application and allowing fingerprints to be taken via a live scan process. Long Term Care Certification via Alternate Training Methods Here is a list of people in most states who may take a state-sponsored written and oral exam for long term care providers without having to complete the required long term care courses and training requirements:
- Students, graduate nurses, and nurses who are licensed abroad and are pending licensure in that state.
- Applicants who are certified to work in a long term care facility in another state by a government agency in that state.
- Nursing applicants who have experience and training as a nurse aide in the military, or who have training that is equivalent to that of a nurse aide.
- Applicants who are been certified as homemaker health aides by the state’s nursing board.
Long term care providers who seek to be recertified in a given state are subject to the following criteria in most states:
- Applicants must have a current and valid license to work in a long term care facility. Alternately, they must have a certificate to work as a personal care assistant.
- Applicants must have been employed in a licensed long term care facility or a related health care facility within the past two years from the current license’s expiration date.
- Applicants must have never had their license suspended or revoked for any reason.
- Applicants must pass a comprehensive criminal history check, including fingerprinting, before the expiration date of the current license.
Skills and Qualities
Desirable qualities in long term care providers include compassion, empathy, patience, attention to detail and stability in one’s emotions. Long term care providers should also be able to ease the minds of elderly patients and be able to communicate with them effectively. Finally, they should be team players and be able to function in a crisis situation.
Career Outlook and Salary Information
Careervoyages.gov reports that the most common occupations in the long term care field include certified nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse, and registered nurse. Some long term care facilities also hire resident assistants who provide personal care services directly to residents, along with qualified medical assistants who may assist with the administration of treatments and medications to patients.
Professional and Academic Resources for Long Term Care
The Long Term Care Nurses Association (LTCNA) is a nonprofit organization focused on empowering its long term care nurse members through educational opportunities, networking opportunities and advocacy.
- "Older People Projected to Outnumber Children for First Time in U.S. History," United States Census Bureau, https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2018/cb18-41-population-projections.html
- "How Much Care Will You Need?" LongTermCare.gov, https://longtermcare.acl.gov/the-basics/how-much-care-will-you-need.html
- Long Term Care Nurses Association, http://www.ltcna.org/