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Training goes coast to coast
What started as a way for the Alabama Department of Public Health to save money and standardize its training of home health workers has evolved into a high-tech training option for home health employees across the country.
The department began broadcasting live inservices to its employees across the state via satellite nearly five years ago. Now, it offers the same broadcasts to outside home health agencies as far away as Wyoming and Minnesota.
For the cost of a steerable satellite ($1,000) and a per-person registration fee, agencies can tap into the state’s regular series of inservices on topics ranging from safety to medical issues.
The public health department developed the satellite system in part to cope with the enormous challenge of training nearly 2,000 home health aides scattered across the state, explains Carol Honaker, RN, C, BSN, program consultant for aide accreditation and education with the department’s Bureau of Home and Community Services.
"The cost of training [aides] in area meetings was very expensive, and we didn’t have the personnel at that time to do that," Honaker says. "So we began to look for other avenues of doing that in a way that was more cost-effective."
At the same time, the state was pursuing accreditation, making it necessary to ensure that training was standardized.
The satellite program, now run out of studios in the public health department, enables trainers in Montgomery to conduct an inservice on fire safety, for instance, and beam it to health department offices across the state. The program is broadcast live, so participants can ask questions via telephone or fax. Each office is equipped with a satellite dish and given the coordinates to pick up the program, which is shown on conventional televisions.
The technology frees trainers to take innovative approaches to conventional inservices, says Gayla Hollis, BSN, who works with the bureau’s aide accreditation and education program. For example, working with the department’s video technicians, she and other trainers can tape record segments that illustrate points they will make during the lecture portion of the training. A fire safety program included a taped segment that showed the dangers of stove fires and how to pull a bedridden patient from a burning home atop a mattress, Hollis and Honaker say.
"The fire department was there, and we used an old stove to demonstrate how to put out a grease fire," Hollis says. "The firefighter showed how to put it out and also demonstrated how you could easily catch on fire if you picked up [a burning object] and tried to go out the door with it."
A driving safety segment created in conjunction with AAA showed how to jump-start a dead battery and how to drive in bad weather.
Pre-taped segments also can be reused for orientations of new employees, Hollis says, or to conduct inservices on medical topics. The department filmed a breast exam as part of a program on breast cancer. An inservice on immune deficiencies featured a participant who discussed living with AIDS. "People were able to call in and actually ask this person questions live. To me, that was one of our special programs."
In an inservice on documentation, she used the same technology that allows meteorologists to point to storm fronts on a weather map. In this case, however, the weather map was replaced with images of documentation.
For the actual satellite broadcast, Honaker says, the trainer always works in front of a live group so he or she can see whether participants are following the topic or need further explanation. "We always have aides and home attendants who live fairly close to the studios in Montgomery, so the presenter has that feedback," she says.
At each satellite site is a facilitator who is responsible for the paperwork associated with the inservice, such as registration and training records. The facilitator gets mailed information packets for an upcoming session, handles any technical glitches that arise, and administers any required tests.
At first, the satellite system was used for paraprofessional training. But with its success, its reach has been extended, says Norma Kay Sprayberry, RN, MSN, director of program development and accreditation for the bureau. "It now includes the professional staff as well — registered nurses, social workers, and other staff members," she says. "We also use it to do management training. We do staff meetings statewide, whereby either our state health officer or other members of management present information or communication to folks statewide. It’s a tremendous benefit in terms of providing consistent information."
The department has branched out even farther, providing access to the transmissions to other agencies across the country. A participating agency pre-registers and is sent a packet of handouts for the program, as well as coordinates to which it can set its satellite dish. Honaker says the average program is beamed to agencies in as many as 20 states.
"For the cost of $1,000, they can buy that satellite dish, and they can pick up the programs on any conventional television," Honaker says. "They can pick it up at a very nominal cost per person. It’s less costly than it would be to pay a staff person to develop the program."
Live programs offered have included home safety, diabetic foot care, caring for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and skin and oral care. The fee for each two-hour home health aide/home attendant program is $20 per person, while the fee for a nursing program is $30. Sprayberry says the department also offers videotapes of previously broadcast inservices for $125 per tape.
Continuing education credit is issued to nurses who view the live broadcasts, which meet the standards of the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she says. Programs for home health aides, homemakers, and personal care attendants comply with all federal regulations and meet paraprofessional standards set by the National Association for Home Care Accreditation Commission.
Honaker and Sprayberry note that some topics aren’t well-suited for a satellite format. "There are some types of training, such as CPR, where you must do a return-type demonstration, and some kinds of clinical training that require a check-off return performance of that procedure," Honaker says. "We would have to find somebody locally to do that. There are some kinds of clinical and technical training that may not be appropriate."
Sprayberry points to vascular access devices as an example of a topic that an agency might not want to attempt via satellite because nurses must practice with the equipment. "But the number of types of educational offerings that you can offer via satellite far outnumber [those] that are desirable not to, because there’s so much you can do with the technology," she says.
• Carol Honaker, RN, C, BSN, Program Consultant, Aide Accreditation and Education, or Norma Kay Sprayberry, RN, MSN, Director of Program Development and Accreditation, Bureau of Home and Community Services, Alabama Department of Public Health, 201 Monroe St., Suite 1200, RSA Tower, Montgomery, AL 36104. Phone: (334) 206-5341 or (800) 225-9770.
• Gayla Hollis, BSN, Aide Accreditation and Education, Bureau of Home and Community Services, P.O. Box 311730, Enterprise, AL 36331. Phone: (334) 347-2664.