Fairmont State graduate program produces skilled long-term care professionals
The Master of Science in Healthcare Management (MHCM) at Fairmont State University began in 2020. From its inception, it included a pathway to obtaining a license as a nursing home administrator. This began as a collaborative effort of Fairmont State and the West Virginia Nursing Home Administrator’s Licensing Board (WVNHALB). This effort continues to result in much student success.
The primary purpose of the WVNHALB, grounded in state and federal law, is to protect the public good by developing and enforcing regulations to govern the practice of nursing home administration in West Virginia. The Board determines candidate eligibility, establishes policies, promulgates rules and regulations, develops and enforces standards, investigates complaints and sees to disciplinary matters.
"Fairmont State University has paved the way for students desiring to become a licensed professional within the healthcare industry upon completion of the master's program, under the direction of Dr. M. Raymond Alvarez, Professor of the Healthcare Management Program," said Director of WVNHALB Veronica Cummings."The master's program has exceeded all expectations in directing the paths of those desiring to become licensed upon graduation and meeting the requirements agreed upon with the West Virginia Nursing Home Administrators Licensing Board".
The director of the Master of Healthcare Management program Raymond Alvarez has developed a curriculum to offer students a unique career path in post-acute care.
“Long-term care facilities in the post-acute continuum are strictly regulated by state and federal agencies that require nursing home administrators to comply with health and safety codes while assuming responsibility for their facilities' quality outcomes and financial viability,” said Alvarez.
Alvarez recognized a need for qualified administrators to fill vacancies in the state and contiguous regions. States in the U.S. require minimum qualifications and experience that include a training period of six to 12 months before a candidate is determined eligible to sit for the state licensing exam. West Virginia requires 1,000 hours for those without prior administrative experience.
Alvarez approached WVNHALB to create a collaborative partnership to waive 500 hours for students at Fairmont State University. Based on research he conducted in early 2020 with current long-term care administrators in the state, Alvarez created a two-part management practicum based on regulatory and administrative national domains of practice with input from state administrators.
“This was the best way to create key learning outcomes in five domains: Administrative Leadership, Resident Care and Quality of Life, Personnel Management, Financial Management and Physical Environment and Atmosphere Management," said Alvarez.
Arranging the practicums involved several steps including prior authorization by the WVNHALB, approval of a location with a qualified preceptor, then completing the required hours. Dominique Fusco Davis and Trevor Harman were the first Fairmont State students to take this route. Since then, seven additional graduate students have taken the state licensing examination and six have also successfully passed their national certification exam.
“Two of our graduates are administrators in Pennsylvania and the remaining are working in our state’s post-acute care facilities. This was the goal of our program,” Alvarez said.
April Jefferys graduated in May and is a nursing home administrator for Quality Life Services in Markleysburg, Pennsylvania. She sums up her program experience.
“I will forever be grateful for everything I have learned, achieved, overcome and accomplished at Fairmont State," said Jeffreys. I look forward to the years to come, continuing my career and looking back on the experiences I have had and the mentors that helped me along the way."
Another recent Health Care Management graduate, Shala Currey, is now working as an administrator in Pittsburgh.
"While completing my bachelor’s degree in healthcare management I began my healthcare career as a recreation assistant at a skilled nursing facility. I quickly developed a passion for long-term care and the residents of the centers. Knowing I was getting ready to pursue a master's in healthcare management, I started looking into the Administrator-in-training (AIT) pathway," said Currey. "The combination of classwork and work-study experience provided during my AIT has prepared me well for the day-to-day challenges of operating a long-term care facility. I was able to become a licensed nursing home administrator before my final semester. I would highly recommend the program to anyone wanting to become a nursing home administrator."
Morgan Robinson, a current Healthcare Management student, is finishing the final 500 hours of her internship and will graduate in November with her Master of Science in Healthcare Management. She feels the program has given her exceptional experience in the industry as she begins her transition from student to professional.
"I've attended board meetings, met and interacted with the top nursing home industry officials, regional directors--you name it. I have helped maintenance take down a wasp nest and work on wheelchairs," said Robinson. "I think everyone should have to do an Administrator Training practicum to know a facility from the bottom up."
Alvarez continues to train Healthcare Management students so that they can go on to be seasoned Nursing Home Administrators and continue to raise the standard of care in long-term care facilities.
“We have a new student who will begin this training in the spring. It takes a great deal of time and effort, but the career path it leads to is the value," said Alvarez. "If we can keep educated administrators in this state, as we have a significant elderly population, my goal of showing how our master’s program enhances workforce development is continually met.”
Alvarez also encourages undergraduates in the Healthcare Management program to seek entry-level positions in long-term care.
“This program has been very successful, and 20 students have graduated with this degree since 2021," said Alvarez. "We have over 45 in the program currently. We could not have accomplished the success of the post-acute training without the support of WVNHALB.”
The MHCM is the only graduate program in the state that offers a Healthcare Management degree with concentrations in post-acute care and health informatics.
“We are 100 percent online as the majority of our students are working healthcare professionals seeking a graduate degree for career advancement and other opportunities," said Alvarez. "This program is based on the acquisition of practical skills needed for effective leadership in healthcare organizations. It’s affordable, accessible and awesome.”
Both Dr. Alvarez and faculty member Dr. Susan Smith have over 40 years of progressive healthcare experience with at least 20 years of post-acute management around the U.S.
“The secretary of the WVNHALB reports that our students are achieving some of the highest scores on both the state and national licensing exams," said Alvarez. We would not have the success we’ve experienced without the Board’s support as well as those long-term care facilities and preceptors who agree to provide our students with this site-based experiential learning in an internship.”
For more information visit the Master of Healthcare Management program page or contact Dr. Raymond Alvarez.
Dr. M. Raymond Alvarez
Program Coordinator Healthcare Management