By Kim Walter
WINCHESTER -- The first Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Expo was held Wednesday, and judging by its turnout and feedback from participants, it likely will become an annual event.
Paul Clements, executive director of post-acute and long-term care at Warren Memorial Hospital, said Valley Health decided to put on the event in order to better partner with local facilities and create a more effective transition of care for patients.
Post-acute and long-term care includes rehabilitation and therapy facilities, assisted living homes, hospice and other teams that provide care after a patient's stay in the hospital.
Clements said the continuum care committee was developed to further research what these facilities and their staff members needed to know in order to better serve patients.
Some of the expo's presenters were from Valley Health facilities, but others were local experts on specific aspects of post-acute and long-term care.
Participants were able to self-pace their learning experience on Wednesday, and visited stations focused on a variety of areas, including infection prevention, medication safety, wound care, positioning, swallowing precautions, dementia, aromatherapy and end of life care.
A majority of those who attended were registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, and other healthcare professionals. The event was worth one hour of continuing nursing education, as approved by the Virginia Nurses Association.
"One thing we've heard a lot of is that post-acute an long-term care aren't touched on as much in school or by other continuing education credits," Clements said. "But health care professionals want to learn more about it ... the baby boomer population is creating more jobs in this type of work, and people are living longer. It's necessary information."
Presenters said they were pleased by the number of people who came out for the event, and the fact that they seemed to learn something new.
One booth showed the benefits of a gel thickener, as opposed to a powder thickener, for people with dysphagia or swallowing issues. It's a newer concept that will lead to better patient results.
Terry Shanks, a nurse at Warren Memorial Hospital, said the Virtual Dementia Tour proved very beneficial to staff members at places like Lynn Care Center in Front Royal.
The station required that participants wear goggles, gloves and headphones that would make them experience sensations similar to those that a dementia sufferer would. They were asked to complete several tasks with confusing instructions in order to show how a person with dementia would see or understand them.
"I think this demonstration has really opened people's eyes to what it's like to have dementia," she said. "When you experience just how much of a struggle every day tasks are for them, it just makes you understand a little more, and in the end the delivery of services improves."
The whole simulation lasted about 15 minutes per person. Shanks said some participants became so frustrated they asked to stop.
"I hope at least one person walked away from this today with a better understanding of the type of folks they work with," she said.
Clements said the event was new, but based on feedback from participants, was absolutely necessary.
"Keeping these health care professionals up-to-date on new therapies, guidelines and services is very important to us," he said. "I think doing anything less is ultimately a disservice to patients."
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or email@example.com