MassLive: UMass Medical School initiative to develop a standardized direct care curriculum that will help workers advance

April 05, 2016

A standardized direct care worker curriculum being developed for state colleges by a consortium led by UMass Medical School and funded by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education will improve care and help workers advance in their careers, according to an April 4 MassLive.com article.

The curriculum will be stackable, which means students can start with a certificate program for basic care and work their way up to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in the medical field. The existing Massachusetts Direct Care Workforce Training Program, managed by UMass Medical School on behalf of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, will be the basis for that curriculum.

The program will benefit young workers who want to advance in the medical field, Linda J. Cragin, MS, director of the Massachusetts Area Health Education Center (MassAHEC) Network, a unit within UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division, told MassLive.

“This can help them work their way through medical school,” she said.

Direct care training currently is not uniform and varies in the state’s public colleges, even for the care levels that require certification, such as a certified nursing assistant (CNA), the MassLive article said.

Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago said more direct care workers will be needed to allow elder residents to remain in their homes instead of moving to an assisted living or nursing facility as the number of Massachusetts residents older than age 65 increases, according to MassLive. A 2013 UMass Donahue Institute study found that by 2030, 21 percent of Massachusetts’ population will be over age 65. 

The program also will address the language barrier that exists in direct care options by including four languages: English, Haitian-Creole, Portuguese and Spanish, according to MassLive.

The new curriculum will be implemented with an aggressive timeline that will enable students to see benefits within the next year, Leanne Winchester, MS, RN, project director for Direct Care Workforce Development in MassAHEC, told MassLive.

Consortium partners include Bristol Community College, Greenfield Community College, Quinsigamond Community College, Northern Essex Community College, MassBay Community College, Middlesex Community College, UMass Dartmouth, Partnerships for a Skilled Workforce, Home Care Aide Council, and the Massachusetts Senior Care Association/Labor and Workforce Development.

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