Due to an aging population and increased number of individuals with intellectual, developmental, and/or physical disabilities living longer and receiving in-home care, there is a growing need for Direct Support Workers (DSWs). DSWs provide important services such as bathing, dressing, and monitoring health conditions. Despite the importance of DSW services to patient health and well-being, state training requirements are limited.1 The role can often be isolating and emotionally taxing; and with an average median hourly wage of $11.032, DSW roles have high turnover rates and positions are going unfilled due to a lack of available and qualified candidates.

To help address this pressing workforce need, UnitedHealthcare is partnering with the Quality Improvement for Long-Term Services & Supports (QuILTSS) Institute. QuILTSS is a non-profit organization established to improve the quality of care and quality of life for individuals receiving long-term services and supports (LTSS) through the state of Tennessee’s LTSS health care program. QuILTSS is working with the state of Tennessee to implement a comprehensive approach to improve patient experience and the health of the LTSS population. A core component of that approach is the development and implementation of a comprehensive, college credit bearing competency-based training program.

UnitedHealthcare is working together with QuILTSS to support their competency-based training program by providing a $500,000 line of credit facilitated by our enterprise partner Optum Bank. The program, currently in development, is being designed by national subject matter experts and will offer a micro-credentialing system so students can advance by demonstrating proficiency in skills such as communication, cultural competency, and patient-centered practices.

Two unique features of the QuILTSS program are: 1) it will be offered through local colleges and provide credit towards associates or bachelor degrees in fields including nursing, health care administration, or other related disciplines, and 2) the program will require DSWs to demonstrate the expected knowledge, skills and abilities, and intellectual behaviors before earning their credential. QuILTSS will maintain a registry of individuals who have partially- and fully-completed the program, which will reduce the need for retraining across sites. QuILTSS aims to begin recruiting and enrolling DSW students in the program this winter and spring with a goal of credentialing more than 25,000 DSWs over the next three years.

QuILTSS and UnitedHealthcare are aligned on the importance of improving quality and satisfaction for individuals receiving LTSS care, while also improving job satisfaction, wages, and retention for DSWs. QuILTSS’ competency-based training program is bringing together the health care and education systems to drive toward an optimal solution for patients and professional caregivers. The QuILTSS team is highly committed to their mission and their work and we are proud to support them as we collectively work to improve the care provided to individuals in need of LTSS.

Read more from Eleanor Beaber

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