Recapturing Total-Person Care: Page 2 of 2

January 16, 2012

Changing the Culture of Care 

There are many fine nurses who provide holistic, well-coordinated professional care, rather than just performing isolated tasks. More of these nurses are needed. LTC nurses must reflect on their typical workday and evaluate if they are engaging with residents sufficiently to assess residents’ physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual status; take the time to plan and care for needs that surface; and offer interventions that they are uniquely prepared to provide. Nurses also need to evaluate their own knowledge and skills to ensure they are working from a foundation of current best practices and standards and take personal responsibility for advancing their competencies.

Nursing associations must provide leadership in defining, advocating, and equipping nurses for the unique aspects of LTC nursing. An example of this is a program that the American Association for Long Term Care Nursing (AALTCN) is involved in, intended to bring culture change and quality improvement programming to under-resourced, under-performing nursing homes. Through the program, several of AALTCN’s certification programs are offered to nurses in various roles. Many nurses who have participated in the program have indicated that it gave them clarity about the unique responsibilities and requirements for specific positions in their facility and a true understanding of the meaning of holistic nursing care. By developing programs to prepare LTC nurses for their various roles and providing an effective means to deliver these programs, associations can help enhance competencies. For more information about AALTCN’s programs,
visit http://ltcnursing.org/AALTCN-learning-community.

Many nursing homes currently use nurses to complete MDS forms, treat wounds, and perform other tasks; thus, nurses need to ensure that these functions are well coordinated and that information is exchanged and used to its full potential by all staff. Nurses should work to sharpen and apply their own clinical skills to competently assess, plan, and provide comprehensive care, and should advocate for and demonstrate leadership that clearly defines individualized, total-person care. Nurses can have a positive influence on how their facilities operate and how LTC services are reimbursed.


Dr. Eliopoulos is executive director, American Association for Long Term Care Nursing, Cincinnati, OH.