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What is Culture Change?

Providers are meeting the culture change movement that is afoot with a variety of emotion. Skepticism by some who wonder if this is another regulatory requirement upon the hundreds already experienced. Others voice enthusiasm and eagerness to learn how this may improve the care already provided to the frail elderly. Confusion rests with the pure infancy of the movement and the lack of a common language. Words such as home-like, resident centered care, and person directed care are posing the question, just what does this mean? Many providers contend they are already home like or resident directed so why the need to change?

A quick exploration into the meaning of the words makes it much clearer to define. Culture is considered the customary beliefs, practices, and social behavior of a group. We define change as making different in some particular way, to give a different course or position to something. In other words, the culture change theme is a movement that takes us from the traditional model of the nursing home as an institution, to a model focused upon home, community and relationships. It challenges us to provide not only a heightened awareness to the clinical needs of an older, sicker and frailer population, but also to develop a community where those entrusted to our care are provided the opportunity to learn and grow, whatever the degree of disability. This goes far beyond a full activity calendar, it goes beyond having a dog in the facility, and it certainly does not stop with renovating an aging building to look pretty.

There is little argument that nursing homes are facing a daunting array of challenges. Although this industry has always been plagued with obstacles, the challenges facing nursing homes today are unprecedented. This is due in part from external changes in the market place, altered regulatory perceptions, and reimbursement constraints. Internally, organizations are seeking new and creative methods to address the health care shortage crisis, high staff turnover, and low morale. As these issues converge upon the nursing home industry, we need to ask ourselves if it is time to change our "culture".

The Wisconsin Health Care Association is committed to embracing the culture change movement. Staff and association members are working with CMS, DHFS, MetaStar, and the State Coalition of Person Directed Care to develop educational materials and opportunities that will assist the membership in the implementation of culture change in their facilities. A sub-committee exclusively devoted to the culture change movement has been developed as an extension of the Quality Advancement committee. Several committee members are actively involved in culture change within their facilities and welcome the opportunity to assist fellow members with questions and concerns related to implementation.

Members interested in participation in the WHCA culture change sub-committee are encouraged to contact Brian Purtell at the WHCA offices to learn more about the committee activities.

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