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Staff Development in Long-term Care

16 May 21


Staff Development Post

Skilled nursing facilities are under increasing pressure to amp up staff development opportunities.  This pressure stems from the need for facilities to implement, monitor, and track staff competency training as outlined in the Requirements of Participation (RoP).  Additional pressure stems from the intense scrutiny facilities endured during the COVID-19 pandemic and performance gaps identified by government surveyors, leaving many people questioning the preparedness of skilled nursing facility staff to perform their roles in a way that achieves quality standards. 


Staffing shortages combined with many changes that frequently occur in the long-term care industry add to the pressures identified above.  Not to mention the need to train and develop all staff, not just nursing staff, can limit attention to staff development opportunities.  Organizations do this in a variety of ways but staffing shortages, or lack of financial resources, frequently prohibit some facilities from having a designated person in this role.   


Whether you are a floor nurse, a staff educator, or a Nursing Professional Development (NPD) Practitioner, you need a place to start. In this article we will help you understand some key areas to consider when creating a staff development plan.  Regardless of the role you hold, if you are the person responsible for staff development at your facility, you can draw upon the Scope and Standards for Nursing Professional Development (NPD) as defined by the American Nurses Association (ANA). Consider the following when thinking about the foundations of any staff development plan: 

  1. Orientation and onboarding
  2. Competency management
  3. Education
  4. Role development
  5. Collaborative partnerships
  6. Research/evidence-based practice/quality improvement


We spoke with Linda Shubert, MSN, RN, Director of Clinical Management at Healthcare Academy, to gain insight on how to apply some of the areas above to your staff development plan. Linda has more than 30 years of nursing experience, working with the senior adult population across rehabilitation, home health, geriatric case management, acute care, and long-term care settings. Prior to joining Healthcare Academy in 2018, she was an on-site NPD practitioner for a skilled nursing facility.  She leads the development of Healthcare Academy’s eLearning courses and digital competencies. Below she shares examples (in italics) of how some of these key areas and competencies apply to skilled nursing facilities.

  • Ensure consistent and effective execution across assigned departments and facilities. 

Examples where this is necessary include: orientation and onboarding, RN residency, determining competencies to evaluate during orientation and 90-day evaluation period, assisting in assigning preceptors/mentors to new employees, and designing preceptor/mentor programs to include training of both.

  • Use critical thinking by applying the nursing process, principles of adult learning, teaching/learning theories, age appropriate teaching strategies for the implementation of educational programs. 

Apply nursing professional development standards when designing orientation and CE programs for staff. Other considerations include training opportunities offered in different languages for staff who speak English as a second language and ensuring information is easily understood without being too technical or difficult.  Provide hands-on or a combination of hands-on/presentation style to make learning more interesting.  Staff will be more engaged and have more fun actually doing something rather than just reading about it or listening to someone.   

  • Understand principles for learning design which includes integrating learning technology to ensure effective learning experiences, competency assessment/validation, and reflection on practice changes or regulatory competency validation requirements.  

Management expects you to come WITH the understanding of these principles.  Meaning, they do not have time to monitor or follow behind staff to ensure understanding.   Proof of understanding is in the outcome, which is staff performance and competency. As a professional, the expectation is that you are always taking the initiative to stay current on LTC industry, regulatory, and nursing practice changes.

  • Utilize data to effectively monitor and report performance on programs, initiatives, and targeted improvement efforts to ensure educational programs meet organizational needs such as improvements in nurse sensitive clinical outcomes, financial, and staff turnover.  

Data speaks and matters! It is important to be aware of and use data such as discharge surveys, safety rounds, safety committee findings, skills performance audits, and quality measure reports to justify the creation or modification of training. Particularly as it relates to QAPI issues that are facility specific. Utilizing data helps to work “smarter, not harder” and target training for facility, unit, and learner specific training efforts.


The roles and responsibilities of those charged with training, onboarding and professional staff development will continue to evolve with the demands and needs of the long-term care industry.  We will be monitoring this topic and plan to cover those changes here in the future. 

In the meantime, learn more about Healthcare Academy’s complete online education platform and how we provide quality, evidence-based content for staff and competency skill development in the long-term care setting. 


Brunt, B. (2020, September 5). Nursing professional development standards. Retrieved May 17, 2021 from https://www.statpearls.com/ArticleLiary/viewarticle/34700 

Woolforde, L. (2019). Nursing professional development practitioner or nurse educator: What’s your response? Journal for Nurses in Professional Development, 35(3), 174-175. Retrieved May 25, 2021 from https://www.nursingcenter.com/journalarticle?Article_ID=4987280&Journal_ID=54029&Issue_ID=4986831

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