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Leading in Care Blog

The AAPACN Leading in Care Blog is a monthly blog for long-term and post-acute care nursing professionals looking for advice, tips, stories, inspiration, and highlights from their profession. This blog features AAPACN staff, as well as RN, DON, and MDS experts from the field, sharing timely insights that can be put into practice today. Topics range from mental health and overcoming burnout, nursing certification survival tips, collaboration between staff roles, how to overcome staff vaccine hesitancy, to the joys and benefits of working in long-term care, and more. Learn more about AAPACN and AAPACN membership.


  • Reset Your Nurse Leadership Skills and Abilities
    By Amy Stewart, MSN, RN, DNS-MT, QCP-MT, RAC-MT, RAC-MTA Have you ever stopped to ask, “How did life amidst a pandemic affect my ability to be a good nurse leader in post-acute care or any …
  • AAPACN Conference Session Sneak Peek: 5-ish Things That Make an MDS Nurse Lose Their Hair
    The AAPACN 2021 Conference will be held virtually April 14-15, and 21-22. The conference is an excellent time to refresh, refocus, and renew your enthusiasm and dedication for your nurse assessment coordinator (NAC) role and …
  • COVID-19 Vaccines: Healthcare Workers and Nursing Home Residents Were First, but It’s Complicated
    by Amy Stewart, MSN, RN, DNS-MT, QCP-MT, RAC-MT, RAC-MTA When the COVID-19 vaccines were first rolled out earlier this year, it was a joyful surprise that healthcare workers, SNF staff, and nursing home residents were …
  • Five Ways to Be a DON Who SNF Staff Want to Follow
    by Caralyn Davis, Staff Writer As the nursing department leader in long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC), the director of nursing services (DNS) needs a hefty toolbox of clinical skills. However, leadership skills are also critical …
  • The Road to Recovery
    by Amy Stewart, MSN, RN, DNS-MT, QCP-MT, RAC-MT, RAC-MTA We are finally nearing the end of 2020. For most, the end offers up hope for a new year and new beginnings. When I reflect on …
  • Some Well-Deserved Appreciation for Certified Nurse Aides
    By Julie Helling, BSN, RN, RAC-CT Last May, I received a text message on my phone from a number I didn’t recognize. The message which appeared, however, was so unexpected and brought me such joy …
  • Balancing Safety and Resident Choice in Nursing Home Visitation
    Prior to COVID-19, much progress had been made to ensure the autonomy of the individual resident was honored. A national movement on person-centered care was created to ensure that the voice of the frail elderly …
  • What Can The Great Depression Teach Us About Resiliency?
    By Julie Helling, BSN, RN, RAC-CT Everyone has been adversely affected by the events of this year, but none more so than the long-term care residents. We have seen a dramatic decline in resident cognition, …
  • 4 Reasons Men Should Consider a Career in Nursing (And Where to Start)
    by Julia Merrill Historically, the majority of the nursing workforce has always been female. However, the number of male nurses is steadily increasing. Today, 11.4 percent of students in BSN programs identify as male – …
  • A Renewal of Faith and Moment of Calm
    By Julie Helling, BSN, RN I have struggled with my faith on so many occasions. There have been more times than I can count when my beliefs have gone to war with my surroundings. As …
  • The Joy and Privilege of Working with Long-Term Care Residents
    By Julie Helling, BSN, RN My life changed at age 14. I had no plans on becoming a nurse. In fact, I was entertaining the idea of becoming a music teacher. Then, my grandfather came …
  • AAPACN Advocacy Agenda Supports the LTPAC Nursing Profession During the COVID-19 Crisis
    Without a doubt, COVID-19 has been the nearly singular focus for AAPACN and our members over the last few months. We have closely communicated with members to understand the needs and challenges of long-term and …
  • Spotlight on You – Podcast Series Episode 2
    In the second episode of this two-part series, AAPACN Chair-elect, Jill Snow, MBA, BSN, RN-BC, CHC, and AAPACN Immediate Past-chair, Stephanie Kessler, CPC, join AAPACN Vice President of Curriculum Development, Amy Stewart, MSN, RN, DNS-MT, …
  • Spotlight on You – Podcast Series Episode 1
    For the last several years, the AAPACN conference has started with a special session planned by the AAPACN Board of Directors and intended to celebrate the members and to give them an opportunity to provide …
  • Mental Health Tips for Long-Term Care Professionals
    May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and AAPACN recognizes the struggles long-term care professionals are facing right now to keep their mental health balanced during to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses may be feeling stressed, tired, …
  • LTC Facility COVID-19 Data Reporting and Nursing Home Compare Updates
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) continue to provide guidance to SNFs regarding the NHSN Long-Term Care Facility (LTCF) COVID-19 Module. All SNF facilities are currently …
  • AAPACN Education Foundation 2020 Scholarship Recipients
    This Nurse’s Week, we honor four rising stars in long-term and post-acute care. The AAPACN Education Foundation positively impacts the lives of 1.4 million people living in nursing homes by providing scholarships for nurses seeking …
  • AAPACN 2020 Innovation Award – Tammy Kelly and Carrie Tidd, Commonwealth Care of Roanoke
    The blog post is the last in our series honoring the AAPACN 2020 Award Winners. We look forward to celebrating with these winners and the 2021 winners next year at the AAPACN 2021 Conference in …
  • AAPACN 2020 Inspiration Award – Jacqueline Jenkins, RN, Good Samaritan Society
    One of the highlights of the AAPACN annual conference each year is the recognition of the year’s award winners. With the 2020 conference now planned as a virtual conference in June, AAPACN will feature the …
  • AAPACN 2020 Integrity Award Winner – Braylee Wynn, Presbyterian Manor
    One of the highlights of the AAPACN annual conference each year is the recognition of the year’s award winners. With the 2020 conference now planned as a virtual conference in June, AAPACN will feature the …
  • AAPACN 2020 Influential Award Winner – Tracey Robinson, Sholom
    One of the highlights of the AAPACN annual conference each year is the recognition of the year’s award winners. With the 2020 conference now planned as a virtual conference in June, AAPACN will feature the …
  • COVID-19 Impacts to LTC Facility Operations
    Today, your facility may or may not have a known or suspected case of COVID-19, but it is highly possible you will see one in the future. Healthcare facilities across the world are suffering as …
  • Coronavirus and How to Protect Your Residents and Staff: Essential Resources for LTPAC
    The United States is currently experiencing an outbreak of a novel coronavirus (officially named COVID-19, aka 2019-nCoV), a respiratory disease that was first seen in Wuhan City, China. Healthcare workers are at a higher risk …
  • How to Gain DNS Support for Attending the 2020 AAPACN Conference
    “I am eternally grateful for the networking opportunities and relationships established at the conference that will inevitably carry throughout my professional career.” – Courtney Pawlowski, RN   The AAPACN annual conference is just around the …
  • How to Gain Administrator Support for Attending the 2020 AAPACN Conference
    “I am eternally grateful for the networking opportunities and relationships established at the conference that will inevitably carry throughout my professional career.” – Courtney Pawlowski, RN   The AAPACN annual conference is just around the …
  • 3 Tools for the New Director of Nursing’s Toolbox – Part 1
    Being the director of nursing (DON) is challenging, and anyone in the role will surely agree. Having a DON title comes with great rewards and requires lots of skills. I tell new DONs it’s all …
  • 3 Tools for the New Director of Nursing’s Toolbox – Part 2
    In Part 1 of this blog series, I talked about how your team communicates with you and how you can set expectations for that communication. In this post, I am going to touch on how you …
  • 3 Tools for the New Director of Nursing’s Toolbox – Part 3
    In Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog series, I covered how setting expectations regarding communication and behavior can save you some big headaches over time. Now, let’s discuss the final tool you’ll need to have as a …
  • 6 Things DONs Can Do to Help Their Nurse Assessment Coordinator Thrive
    1.       Evaluate if the nurse assessment coordinator has enough hours The nurse assessment coordinator’s (NAC’s) job is a lot to handle, and it’s getting even bigger with more and more regulations coming their way. Sometimes there’s …
  • 5 Qualities of a Successful Nurse Assessment Coordinator
    A nurse assessment coordinator (NAC) has many important qualities; however, there are a few that you should really keep in mind if you want to be successful in your job. 1.       Learner/adaptable – The long-term care nursing …
  • Why Should I Earn a Nursing Certification?
    Certification programs elevate the standard of knowledge and skills required for a profession. In nursing, certifications are offered by specialty, and there are many paths to choose from. If you are considering a career in …
  • Why Should I Become a Certified Nurse Assessment Coordinator (NAC)?
    Nurse assessment coordinators (NACs) are required to understand the extensive and complex regulatory body surrounding the RAI/MDS process and regulations are always changing. Coding correctly and having keen assessment skills are also very important parts of …
  • 5 Tips for Surviving Your RAC-CT Certification
    Achieving your Resident Assessment Coordinator—Certified (RAC-CT®) certification is a tremendous accomplishment for a nurse assessment coordinator in long-term care; however, the road isn’t easy. It takes hours of studying, in-depth learning and critical thinking, and focus to …
  • 5 Ways to Celebrate Your RAC-CT Certification
    You just passed your final exam and you’re ready to tell the whole world that you are finally RAC-CT certified! This is your moment of achievement. It’s something you’ve been working very hard toward for months, putting …
  • What Is the Correct Order for My LTC Nursing Credentials?
    LTC nursing credentials are a badge of pride and hard work. You just received your RAC-CT certification or DNS-CT certification, and you’re ready to add those five letters to your name! But first, where should you put …
  • Top 5 Care Connection Blogs of 2019
    The Care Connection Blog is written for long-term care nurses who work hard, lead by example, and inspire the kind of care that we all want for ourselves one day. Below are the top five blogs written in 2019 that helped to clear confusion, brought you the excitement of the year’s events, and outlined very important details about the nurse assessment coordinator’s job function and role.
  • 5 Best Nurse Leader Blogs of 2019
    In 2019, the Nurse Leader Blog brought you the excitement of the year’s events, inspiring stories, leadership advice, tips for culture change, and much more. Revisit the most popular posts on the Nurse Leader Blog …
  • Top 5 Care Connection Blogs of 2019
    The Care Connection Blog is written for long-term care nurses who work hard, lead by example, and inspire the kind of care that we all want for ourselves one day. Below are the top five …
  • Overcoming Burnout and Compassion Fatigue with Self-Care
    As a nurse in long-term care, sometimes you can get so caught up in caring for others that you forget to care for yourself. This often leads to burnout, which can lead to compassion fatigue …
  • How to Help LTC Residents Overcome Loneliness During the Holiday Season
    For staff, the holidays can be a busy time full of family gatherings and holiday celebrations, but for our residents, the holidays can be an especially lonely time. Our residents must adjust to so many …
  • 3 Tools for the New Director of Nursing’s Toolbox – Part 3
    In Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog series, I covered how setting expectations regarding communication and behavior can save you some big headaches over time. Now, let’s discuss the final tool you’ll need …
  • 3 Tools for the New Director of Nursing’s Toolbox – Part 2
    In Part 1 of this blog series, I talked about how your team communicates with you and how you can set expectations for that communication. In this post, I am going to touch on how …
  • Overcoming Burnout and Compassion Fatigue with Self-Care
    As a nurse in long-term care, sometimes you can get so caught up in caring for others that you forget to care for yourself. This often leads to burnout, which can lead to compassion fatigue …
  • 3 Tools for the New Director of Nursing’s Toolbox – Part 1
    Being the director of nursing (DON) is challenging, and anyone in the role will surely agree. Having a DON title comes with great rewards and requires lots of skills. I tell new DONs it’s all …
  • Workplace Culture – Speak it, Breathe it, Live it
    It would be easy to think writing about workplace culture as a simple task. If that’s you, let me stop you right there; I assure you it isn’t! Not because it is a difficult topic …
  • MDS 3.0 RAI User’s Manual Updates v1.17.1 Checklist
    CMS finally released version v1.17.1 of the RAI User’s Manual that will go into effect Oct. 1, 2019! In case you missed it, AANAC has got you covered! Below is a short list to help …
  • Do You Embody Inspirational Leadership?
    As the Director of Operations for my company, I have had the opportunity to encounter many different leadership styles among the various departments within the skilled nursing world. I’ve worked with those who have an …
  • Seven Ways to Disseminate Important Information for PDPM Considering a Fixed Timeline
    When our company started the effort to educate the interdisciplinary team (IDT) on the Patient-Driven Payment Model (PDPM), we needed to decide what information needed to be relayed and in what order. Organizing an outline …
  • The Long-Term Care Moment That Changed My Life
    Being the DNS isn’t for the faint of heart. You navigate the survey process, solve staffing crises, advocate for residents, and so much more. The nurse leader in the nursing home often gives far more …
  • Skilled Nursing News Hosts First Annual Summit
    AAPACN President and CEO, Tracey Moorhead, attended Skilled Nursing News’ (SNN’s) inaugural, half-day Summit in Chicago on June 6. The event attracted more than 250 skilled nursing leaders representing providers, investors, technology innovators, and business …
  • Highlights from the 2019 AANAC and AADNS Conference in Orlando
    The 2019 AANAC and AADNS Conference in Orlando, FL on April 3 – 5, 2019, was by far the largest AANAC or AADNS conference yet, with more than 1,300 attendees, 48 exhibitors, 8 sponsors, and …
  • Highlights from the 2019 AANAC and AADNS Conference in Orlando
    The 2019 AANAC and AADNS Conference in Orlando, FL on April 3 – 5, 2019, was by far the largest AANAC or AADNS conference yet, with more than 1,300 attendees, 48 exhibitors, 8 sponsors, and …
  • Looking Forward to the 2019 AANAC and AADNS Conference
    Each year, AANAC and AADNS hold an annual conference to bring together nursing professionals like you for best-in-class education, networking, and fun. With this year’s theme, we gather to envision the future of long-term and …
  • Looking Forward to the 2019 AANAC and AADNS Conference
    Each year, AANAC and AADNS hold an annual conference to bring together nursing professionals like you for best-in-class education, networking, and fun. With this year’s theme, we gather to envision the future of long-term and …
  • What Is the Correct Order for My LTC Nursing Credentials?
    You just received your RAC-CT certification, and you’re ready to add those five letters to your name! But first, where should you put them? Making sense of the order of the nurse alphabet soup can …
  • Top 5 Nurse Leader Blogs of 2018
    In 2018, the Nurse Leader Blog provided you with tips for career success, advice for preparing for new processes, inspiring member stories, and much more. As we move into 2019, let’s take a look at …
  • Top 10 Care Connection Blogs of 2018
    The Care Connection Blog is written for long-term care nurses who work hard, lead by example, and inspire the kind of care that we all want for ourselves one day. Below are the top 10 …
  • Guest Blog: The Value of Mentoring in Nursing
    Mentoring is an opportunity to impart experiences, skills, perspectives, and ideas to accelerate the success of another person. Historically, nurses have been bred from the “nurses eat their young” mentality where experienced nurses pride themselves …
  • 15 Not-So-Scary Truths for Nurse Assessment Coordinators
    One thing that will never get a BOO! – an accurate MDS Something that should never get spider webs – RAI User’s Manual The best decorations for your credentials that you can hang two years …
  • 5 Ways to Celebrate Your RAC-CT Certification
    You just passed your final exam and you’re ready to tell the whole world that you are finally RAC-CT certified! This is your moment of achievement. It’s something you’ve been working very hard toward for …
  • Why Should I Become a Certified DON?
    Starting out as a new director of nursing (DON) can sometimes seem overwhelming. You are expected to know how to oversee nursing personnel, enforce policies for legal compliance and high standards, and improve quality, communications, …
  • 5 Tips for Surviving Your RAC-CT Certification
    Achieving your Resident Assessment Coordinator—Certified (RAC-CT®) certification is a tremendous accomplishment for a nurse assessment coordinator in long-term care; however, the road isn’t easy. It takes hours of studying, in-depth learning and critical thinking, and …
  • 2018 AADNS Annual Conference Takeaways from a DON in Rural Michigan
    Attending the annual conference for the American Association of Directors of Nursing Services in National Harbor, MD was nothing but a dream. As a director of nursing in a small rural town like Menominee, MI …
  • Why Should I Become a Certified NAC?
    Nurse assessment coordinators (NACs) are required to understand the extensive and complex regulatory body surrounding the RAI/MDS process and regulations are always changing. Coding correctly and having keen assessment skills are also very important parts …
  • Why Should I Earn a Nursing Certification?
    Certification programs elevate the standard of knowledge and skills required for a profession. In nursing, certifications are offered by specialty, and there are many paths to choose from. If you are considering a career in …
  • Why Should I Earn a Nursing Certification?
    Certification programs elevate the standard of knowledge and skills required for a profession. In nursing, certifications are offered by specialty, and there are many paths to choose from. If you are considering a career in …
  • 5 Qualities of a Successful Nurse Assessment Coordinator
    Nurse assessment coordinators (NACs) have many important qualities; however, there are a few that you should really keep in mind if you want to be successful in your job. 1.       Learner/adaptable – The long-term care …
  • Nurses Week: Inspiring Stories from Nurse Leaders and Why They Chose LTC
    Being a nurse leader in long-term and post-acute care is one of the most rewarding professions available in nursing. You are a key player in enacting change, helping your staff to grow, and knowing that …
  • 2018 AANAC Annual Conference Highlights Recap
    Last month, AANAC hosted its 2018 annual conference in Las Vegas. The AANAC Annual Conference is a two-and-a-half-day event full of learning, connecting with other MDS professionals, and tons of fun! If you were unable …
  • A Nurse’s Poem and Other Great Reads
    In case you need something good to read on your way to the 2018 AANAC Annual Conference in Las Vegas next week, and in honor of National Poetry Month, we put together a few fun …
  • The Right Questions for a DON to Ask in an LTC Facility Interview
    Hiring the best staff is paramount to the success of a nursing home and one of the most challenging duties of the DON. While developing an interviewing process takes a considerable investment of time, a …
  • Well Wishes for Diane Carter, AANAC’s President and CEO
    As we prepare to wish our President and CEO, Diane Carter, RN, MSN, RAC-CT, DNS-CT, FAAN, the best of luck in the next stage of her career, we look back on the beginnings of our …
  • 6 Things DONs Can Do to Help Their Nurse Assessment Coordinator Thrive
    1.       Evaluate if the nurse assessment coordinator has enough hours The nurse assessment coordinator’s (NAC’s) job is a lot to handle, and it’s getting even bigger with more and more regulations coming their way. Sometimes …
  • How I Came to Love Long-Term Care
    Career paths aren’t always straightforward, nor are they always what we initially wanted. However, we may find that an unexpected fork in our career path is exactly what we needed and where we need to …
  • Top 10 Nurse Leader Blogs of 2017
    In 2017, the Nurse Leader Blog provided you with tips for success, advice for preparing for new regulations, inspiring member-written stories, and much more. As we move into 2018, let’s take a look at the …
  • How Long-Term Care Became My Passion
    As you go through nursing school and explore the wide range of the nursing field, you’ll find out there will be many career paths you can walk down. It’s important to explore what’s important to …
  • Want a Career that Provides Research Opportunities, Autonomy, and the Ability to Make a Difference? Try LTC!
    My first degree was in science education. While getting my education, I worked in the nursing home right across the street at night as an aid. I also worked there as an aid in high …
  • The Importance of Resident Interviews for Quality Care
    “The nurse’s part of the MDS is just invaluable. And you really feel like you can be a nurse, because you use every assessment skill you learned in nursing school.”—Jane Belt, MS, RN, RAC-MT, QCP …
  • The MDS Assessment Process
    “When we care for a resident in long-term care, we are caring for them holistically.” – Jessie McGill, RN, RAC-MT Long-term care is about caring for residents at their highest level possible. The MDS Assessment …
  • Long-Term Care Provides Our Elders with a Purpose
    I’ve been in nursing since 1985. I started my career as an LPN. It was during my clinical practicum in a nursing home where I had a very rewarding experience which led to my decision …
  • The Value of the MDS
    “The MDS is an invaluable tool to us in long-term care. It involves so much of the nurse and her relationship with the resident and getting them to get to that highest level of function. …
  • LTC Nursing’s Culture Change Empowers Educational and Professional Growth
                When I graduated from nursing school, I never thought of long-term care (LTC) as a place of employment, let alone that I would be here for twenty-five years. But as …
  • Working in LTC was like Coming Home
    From about the age of three, when I first bandaged up my dog to be my patient, I wanted to be a nurse.  As the youngest of my extended family, I was exposed to hospitals …
  • MDS 3.0 RAI User’s Manual Updates Checklist
    With the updated RAI User’s Manual released on August 31 by CMS, you are probably working steadily on preparing for the changes that go into effect very soon on October 1, 2017. To ensure you …
  • Working in Long-Term Care is Bringing Back the Quality of Life to Older Adults
    I’m originally from the Philippines and came to the United States when I was 18. I’ve been a nurse since I was 19 years old. My first career choice was physical therapy, but while in …
  • Disrupting Inaccessibility with a Journey of 500 Miles
    As long-term care nurses, many of you spend your lives caring for those with disabilities and life-threatening diseases. You live each day knowing the people you care for may not wake up tomorrow; however, you …
  • Emergency Preparedness Resources and Assistance
    As hurricanes and wildfires create havoc around the U.S., and November is approaching with the Emergency Preparedness Final Rule implementation deadline, we are reminded of the importance of getting our facilities prepared for any emergency …
  • Emergency Preparedness for the NAC
    Hurricane Harvey, which is still affecting many nursing facilities, residents, and families in Texas and Louisiana, reminds us all of the importance of emergency preparedness and how disaster can strike at any moment. Nurse assessment …
  • A Small Deed is a Big Deed to the Residents in Long-Term Care
    I’ve been a nurse for 34 years and have been in long-term care for 19 years. In acute-care, I was a staff nurse and started on the night shift. I eventually went to the day …
  • Understanding MDS Item B0700 (Makes Self Understood)
    B0700 (Makes Self Understood) may seem like a small item on the MDS; however, it’s not insignificant, it’s mighty. B0700 is the ability of your resident to express or communicate needs, and yet there’s so …
  • Looking for a Daily Challenge? Become a Nurse Leader in Long-Term Care
    I graduated from nursing school back in 1980, so I’ve been in nursing almost 40 years! My background is in acute care as a critical care nurse. At the time, we had a consultant who …
  • Looking for a Daily Challenge? Become a Nurse Leader in Long-Term Care
    I graduated from nursing school back in 1980, so I’ve been in nursing almost 40 years! My background is in acute care as a critical care nurse. At the time, we had a consultant who …
  • Looking for a Daily Challenge? Become a Nurse Leader in Long-Term Care
    I graduated from nursing school back in 1980, so I’ve been in nursing almost 40 years! My background is in acute care as a critical care nurse. At the time, we had a consultant who …
  • 4 Good Reads to Reflect on the Lessons in LTC
    4 Good Reads to Reflect on the Lessons in LTC Assessing and caring for others can be a lot of work, but it also teaches us many important life lessons. Working in long-term care shows …
  • Looking for a Daily Challenge? Become a Nurse Leader in Long-Term Care
    I graduated from nursing school back in 1980, so I’ve been in nursing almost 40 years! My background is in acute care as a critical care nurse. At the time, we had a consultant who …
  • 9 Exceptional Nurses Leading the Way in Long-Term Care
    At the 2017 AANAC Annual Conference, we celebrated nine exceptional nurses who are leading the way in long-term care. The 2017 AANAC Awards and Scholarships winners are the following: 2017 Award Winners NAC of the …
  • LTC Nursing is Honoring Our Elders’ Rights, Dignity, and Choices
    I started my career as a nurse in 1972 in a small rural hospital where nurses were generalists and often learned by trial and error. I first learned that I did not want to be …
  • Prepare Your Facility for the Antibiotic Stewardship Program – Part 2
    In Part 1 of this blog, you learned what the Antibiotic Stewardship program was and a few steps to get started on implementing a unique ASP in your facility. Once you have those prepared, you …
  • Long-Term Care Stole My Heart
    I want to tell you my story. It starts when I’m seven years old. My great grandparents were still living and I visited them often. Big Mom was my mother’s grandmother, very country–she wore the …
  • Prepare Your Facility for the Antibiotic Stewardship Program – Part 1
    The Antibiotic Stewardship Program (ASP) is a new regulation that comes with Phase 2 of the Mega Rule and goes into effect on November 28, 2017. This new regulation will involve major changes to your …
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