New Patient Safety Fellowship Examines Safety in Senior Residences

The 2021 Patient Safety Fellows explore the future of senior care.

The pandemic has revealed, at a staggering level, the safety issues facing the frailest older adults in various long-term care settings. Although these challenges are not new, the pandemic has created broad inertia to explore new models that ensure the safety and wellness of seniors. To foster next-generation healthcare leaders who will reinvent the future of senior residential living and geriatrics, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation's 2021 Patient Safety Fellowship delves into the challenges and opportunities at the nexus of senior care and safety.  

Senior living options must embrace creative solutions that help older adults age well and safely in a range of settings. This summer's 30 fellows—representing over 20 disciplines, 11 different colleges and universities, and five states—have begun exploring existing and conceptual models for transforming our community and healthcare systems. Divided into four interdisciplinary teams, the fellows will craft a new model of care that maximizes safety and quality of life for a case study of an older adult. Fellows will pitch to members of JHF's Senior Care Full Court Press Team during the finale later this summer, making the case for how their models will address some of the challenges of our current systems and create dialogue about the opportunities and challenges they have identified.

Since the Fellowship began on June 1, each week the fellows have explored a core element of their long-term care models. Early sessions overviewed aging in the modern world and current best practice models, while recent sessions examined The Past, Present, and Future of Long-Term Care Policy and Aging Well with Safety and Quality at the Forefront. Fellows engaged with expert guest speakers, including State Senator Maria Collett, JD, BSN, Pennsylvania Senate Aging & Youth Committee Minority Chair; Anne Ellett, NP, MSN, Founder & Executive Director at Memory Care Support LLC; Bobbi Jo Haden, Vice President of Retirement Services at Presbyterian Senior Care Network; Fatemeh Hashtroudi, Director of Quality Improvement at Community LIFE; Marissa Hoover, DEd, Director of Development at the Penn State Smarthome Research Initiative; Kathy Gillespie, CEO of Clearfield County Area of Agency on Aging, Inc; Georgia Goodman, Director of Governmental Affairs at LeadingAge PA; Ruth Guilinger, MD, Medical Director at LIFE Pittsburgh; Eric Rodriguez, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Division of Geriatric Medicine; Susan Ryan, Senior Director at the Green House Project; State Senator Judy Ward, RN, Pennsylvania Senate Aging & Youth Committee Chair; and Gail Weidman, Director of Policy & Regulatory Affairs at the Pennsylvania Health Care Association.

"It's hard to fight for a cause or understand its purpose when we don't see how it impacts us in the moment. Initially when I started the Patient Safety Fellowship, I was ready to learn about ways to facilitate change for the older adults in my life, but over time, I've realized that I'm here for me. Aging is inevitable regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status and so we need to look beyond today to ensure our safety for the years to come," said Patient Safety Fellow Martha Nkangabwa, MS, Program Consultant with the Neighborhood Learning Alliance.

In upcoming sessions, the fellows will have virtual visits with four local senior living and senior care organizations: Community LIFE, Cross Keys Village, The Jewish Association on Aging's AHAVA Memory Care Center of Excellence, and Vincentian Collaborative System. Future sessions will continue to focus on ways to enhance systems to maximize safety and quality, including considerations for workforce and design.

"The Patient Safety Fellowship has allowed me to engage with speakers and peers from different areas of the healthcare sector who all have the same focus: quality patient care for the elderly," said John Bielewicz, MSOL, graduate student in healthcare administration and management at Point Park University and the director of supply chain at St. Clair Hospital. "The opportunity to understand the options that are being created and the many other insights are allowing me to take note on how I can continue to change and work towards better care. I am looking forward to the remaining weeks and focusing on our final project to collaborate on a solution and use these learnings towards my future in the industry."

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