Foundation funding to improve pandemic response in rural nursing facilities

Staff Writer
Syracuse Journal-Democrat

The Nebraska Health Care Foundation has been awarded $250,000 from the Donald E. Nielsen Foundation. These funds are designated for the University of Nebraska Medical Center Partners in Preparedness Mentor Project. This project will enhance COVID-19 pandemic preparedness in Nebraska’s rural nursing facilities and critical access centers through a multi-faceted approach.

The mentorship program provides an individual mentor to each long-term care facility and critical access hospital that opts into this voluntary service. Mentors connect with the facility designee on a daily basis as a single touchpoint to brainstorm strategies to follow national and state guidance; to assist in the interpretation of changing recommendations; or simply to provide some words of encouragement during these difficult times. Trust and consistency lead to great partnerships between mentor and mentee and ultimately helps facilities keep their residents or patients safe from COVID-19 transmission.

"Our model is based on a practice used by the infection prevention arena for over 30 years," said Sharon Medcalf, Ph.D., director of the Center for Biosecurity, Biopreparedness, and Emerging Infectious Diseases in the UNMC College of Public Health. "Infection preventionists were assigned a mentor through their professional association and then that mentor became that "lifeline" for vetting ideas, strategies and seeking consensus. This project aims to provide the same type of relationship to long term care and critical access hospitals to help response coordinators navigate through their facilities COVID-19 response."

"There is so much information, from a variety of sources, and it changes rapidly. It is helpful to have a team of experts watching for these recommendations and delivering them to the facilities in a uniform manner. The live mentorship and COVID-19 calls add great value in a very stressful situation," said Matthew Beacom, M.D., director of Rural Health for the UNMC College of Public Health and co-primary investigator for the Partners in Preparedness project.

"Dr. Beacom has been instrumental in guiding us through the implementation of policies and procedures, in response to COVID-19. His expertise and on-going support have provided our team a tremendous amount of confidence in our pandemic preparedness," said Ron Gross, President of Nye Health Services.

"The residents in our rural assisted living and nursing facilities are vulnerable and they are our true heroes. Former coaches, teachers, Sunday school teachers, our family, friends, you name it, they deserve our very best effort to protect them during this pandemic and I am grateful for the generous gift from the Donald E. Nielsen Foundation in support of these efforts," Dr. Beacom said.

"This project falls very much in line with the education-focused mission of the Nebraska Health Care Foundation," said Heath Boddy, President and CEO of the Nebraska Health Care Foundation. "We are grateful to be part of a project that will get critical support to those who are working to protect Nebraskans from COVID-19. These efforts would not be possible without the generosity of the Donald E. Nielsen Foundation."

"The Donald E. Nielsen Foundation is pleased to provide funding for this innovative effort that will serve as a vital resource for the on-going battle against the COVID-19 virus in rural Nebraska nursing facilities and critical access centers. The Project will undoubtedly help save lives in the future," said Clarence E. Mock, President of the Donald E. Nielsen Foundation, a private, non-profit foundation dedicated to encouraging personal achievement, service to the community and a just society.

The mission of Nebraska Medicine and UNMC is to lead the world in transforming lives to create a healthy future for all individuals and communities through premier educational programs, innovative research and extraordinary patient care.