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Health Services Administration Students Participate in Long Term Care Study

By: Christine Borkowski
Posted: April 10, 2012

Have you ever wondered where your parents or grandparents will live as they age? Over time, many loved ones face the decision to relocate from their homes to a long-term care (LTC) setting, such as a nursing home or assisted living facility.

One of the reasons families choose an LTC facility is because of the friendly, caring and knowledgeable staff. JMU health services administration (HSA) students who show interest in LTC fit the above description. These JMU students will be the future administrative staff of such facilities.

On a national scale, the number of health services managers is said to increase by 20 percent by 2018 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010). As our senior citizen population grows in America from 15 million in 2000 to 27 million by 2050, a need for more staff, including caregivers and administrators becomes apparent (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003). The HSA program at JMU will better-prepare the future workforce for this gradual increase in need for quality care.

Dr. April Temple and Dr. Jon Thompson of JMU’s HSA program conducted a study with 68 of the program’s students, and the results were published in the journal, Gerontology & Geriatrics Education. The research study found that one-third of Madison’s HSA students have an interest in working in long-term care. Those interested in LTC had responses positively associated with their satisfaction, confidence and quality of their contact with the elderly--But where does the passion for LTC come from?

Where Passion and Respect for Long-Term Care Developed


“I’ve always had great relationships with my grandparents,” JMU student Lacey Johnson (’12) explained, “I've also been told that I have an ‘old soul,’ so being around older adults feels like home to me.” Johnson is an HSA major with a minor in business looking to work in LTC. Johnson’s interest in LTC is not a rare occurrence at JMU.

Johnson began her work in LTC in high school at a retirement community. “I think that’s where my passion really started to develop,” Johnson said. Because of her love for working with the elderly in high school, Johnson knew she wanted to serve the aging community in her future profession. “When I think about working in LTC, I am excited about the future.”

Nathan Yowell (’13) expressed his respect for and the value of elderly persons. "Hearing stories that the elderly have to tell is like a combination of a history book and mother goose stories: both entertaining while at the same time containing useful information." Yowell’s grandparents whole-heartedly supported his decision to study LTC at JMU.

His grandparents’ personal traits and life lessons are what prepared him for this career track. “They would always talk about how some of their friends were going through some tough emotional and physical times and that it was limiting their independence,” Yowell explained. “Hearing this made me think about my friends and how I would do anything to help them. My grandparents and their friends continue to influence me throughout my decision to go into LTC.”

Shakerrie Allmond (’12) originally wanted to be an OBGYN before she knew about the HSA program at JMU. “I have four great influences for my career in LTC-- Dr. Thompson, Dr. Temple, Dr. Cockley, and Dr. Bopp. All of these great educators really have challenged my skills as a student, and as an adult,” Allmond praised.

Allmond’s favorite part of working in LTC are the possibilities involved “With a career in LTC the people live there, possibly for the rest of their lives, so building a strong attachment and concern for the people is inevitable.”

Experiential Learning


Allmond, Johnson and Yowell each volunteered at a local LTC facility, Emeritus of Harrisonburg. The assisted living community staff and administration specialize in making everyday activities easy and more enjoyable for its residents.

Yowell knew an occupation in LTC was right for him because of his experiences at Emeritus with an elderly woman named Alice. “Her face would light up whenever she saw me.  This was very special for me because I knew that I was making her day brighter,” Nathan expressed. “I loved hearing about every little thing that was going on in her life. Alice is who sealed the deal for me.”

“I knew that LTC was for me when I volunteered at Emeritus,” Allmond explained. “The administrator was able to tour her facility and talk directly with residents and their families. She had a direct connection to the people. Everyone knew her and could walk into her office with any concerns, and that is what I wanted out of a career.”

In addition to her volunteer work with Emeritus, Johnson has an impressive resume when it comes to working with the elderly. She worked in two different retirement communities in her home state of Pennsylvania, as a Personal Care Associate and as a waitress. She is also an active member of the JMU Health Administration Student Association.

All three students’ experiences with Emeritus solidified their passions for the LTC field. As the students move forward with their studies at JMU, they begin to focus on the job search come graduation.

Future Endeavors


When it comes time to enter the real world, Johnson’s dream job would be as an activities coordinator for an assisted living facility or a continuing care retirement community (CCRC). Johnson would like to have a position that allows her to interact with the elderly on a daily basis. Her favorite part about LTC is seeing older adults enjoying their lives while playing a role in facilitating their happiness.

“In my experience working in LTC, the residents have always been so appreciative of the people who care for them, and I just love knowing that I'm making a difference in their lives,” Johnson explained.

Allmond wants interaction every day with residents in a CCRC as well. “I don't want there to just be some picture of me on the wall saying that I'm the administrator, but no one ever sees me. A CCRC will give me a good hand in all parts of LTC.” HSA provides Allmond, as well as the rest of the students in the program, the correct knowledge and tools to handle an entire facility.

Allmond’s mentors and education have set her up for a career in LTC. “I would name Dr. Temple as my mentor because she was in LTC before and she knows the ins and outs.” Allmond explained. Dr. Temple acted as a mentor and helped Allmond obtain the correct study materials for the nursing home administrator licensure examination. Dr. Temple is also always very accessible when I need to talk to her about anything pertaining to my career.”

As for Yowell, his dream is to someday start and run his very own CCRC. “My grandfather always told me to be my own boss and that life is not lived when it is under someone else. This made me strive for proprietorship,” Yowell said.

Yowell identifies with “aging in place.” He remembers moving from house to house as a child and how that made him feel. “I cannot imagine how hard this concept of moving around so often would be on the elderly.” By starting his own LTC facility in the future, Yowell will have the opportunity to make great friends, get to know the staff and, most importantly, feel at home.

The future of long-term care lies in the hands of these passionate students. If you wonder where your parents and grandparents will be in a few years, just know that they will be in good hands. If you would like to learn more about the JMU Health Services Administration program, connect through the HSA website.