University of Southern Indiana

USI joins initiative to bolster nursing homes during pandemic

USI joins initiative to bolster nursing homes during pandemic

2/5/2021 | University Communications
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Thirty-one nursing homes have enrolled in the University of Southern Indiana’s cohort in a state-wide effort to assist facilities in dealing with COVID-19 and its challenges. USI is part of the Indiana Nursing Home COVID-19 Action Network (NHCAN) Extension of Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO), which seeks to improve COVID-19 preparedness, safety and infection control.

More than 230 nursing homes from across Indiana are participating in the ECHO project, led by the Indiana University School of Medicine and Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI. In addition to USI, collaborators include the Regenstrief Institute, Parkview Health and the University of Indianapolis. The ECHO project is funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Katie Ehlman, Professor of Gerontology and Director of the USI Center for Healthy Aging and Wellness, is leading USI’s cohort with project team members Dr. Karl Sash of St. Vincent Evansville; Lynn Herr, Public Health Nurse at the Vanderburgh County Health Department; Valerie Turpen, Nurse Practitioner with Deaconess Health System; and Lara Adedokun, Healthcare Quality Improvement Specialist at the TMF Health Quality Institute.

“Our hope is that the nursing home leaders and the subject matter experts create a community of learning,” said Ehlman. “We follow a 16-week curriculum developed by the Institute of Healthcare Improvement that is flexible enough to adjust to meet the group’s needs. It’s an honor for our team to work to support the long-term care industry at a time of unimaginable challenges.” 

As of Fall 2020, nearly one-quarter of the known COVID-19 deaths in the United States were nursing home residents and staff, according to AHRQ. One of the goals of the ECHO program is to help nursing homes implement evidence-based best practices to prevent outbreaks and identify any infections early.

Summerfield Health Care Center in Cloverdale, Indiana, is part of the USI cohort. “We at Summerfield Health Care Center find the ECHO calls are a wonderful resource for continuing education associated with the everyday battle against COVID-19,” said Tasheena Duncan, Administrator. “The ECHO calls have built a sense of community that allows for open dialog and peer to peer support.”

Dr. Karl Sash, a physician and medical director at St. Vincent, said the weekly meetings have been effective and a positive experience for all. “This model gives nursing home staff a chance to interact with peers and facilitators to share their challenges and experiences to support each other and have an open venue to ask questions and find resources,” he said.

Each call includes a presentation of COVID-related best practices and guidance, implementation and quality improvement techniques and case-based discussions to identify successes and challenges experienced at the facility-level.

Some of the topics covered in these calls include:

  • Vaccines: Expected arrival, storage. How to share educational materials with staff, residents and families.
  • Infection control: Use of personal protective equipment (PPE). How to cohort positive and negative COVID-19 residents in a facility.
  • Staffing shortages: Practical tips and short-term solutions.

The IUPUI ECHO Center is handling enrollment in the ECHO program. For questions and more information, please contact the ECHO Director Andrea Janota at or 317-274-3178.

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Photo Credit: USI Creative and Print Services

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