Pioneers Of Change Extended Care Center For Excellence Breaks New Ground In Valley Health Care

Marilyn Webb, director of the Extended Care Center for Excellence and career ladder training coordinator for Loomis Communities, doesn’t put a lot of emphasis on her own job title. But she is quick to correct people when they call the center she directs the Extended Care Center of Excellence.


“Of course, we hope to be a center of excellence,” she says, “but that’s not the primary goal. We want to create excellence in others.”

Webb signed on as the grant-funded director of the center, which is offered through the Center for Business Develop-ment and Professional Development at Holyoke Community College, in June, 2004. Since then, she and HCC’s Dean of Workforce Development, Keith Hensley, and a score of community leaders, trainers, and staff in many of the area’s long-term care facilities have contributed to the growth of a center that began as just a handful of classes and has blossomed into a full-fledged educational endeavor.

“The key is empowerment. These courses allow CNAs to flourish in their positions, and to consider moving on to other jobs in health care.”

Currently, the Extended Care Center for Excellence is a center without walls; classes, all geared toward health care professionals, are held in rooms across the HCC campus or on site at some area nursing facilities. However, with the completion of the Kittredge Business Center on the HCC campus, the center will soon become a physical presence in Western Mass., and that development will be the most visible proof of the dizzying pace at which the only center of its kind in the country was created.

The Starting Line

The Extended Care Center for Excellence began as a kernel of an idea in 2001, and grew exponentially over the next four years.

Commonwealth Corporation, a state-wide organization that provides workforce assistance and funding for a variety of community-based organizations and businesses, issued a request for proposals (RFP) across the Commonwealth to fund extended care career ladder initiatives (ECCLI), with the overall goal of improving long-term care and stabilizing the industry’s workforce.

“One of the grant proposal requirements was that an initiative be a collaborative effort, in order to eliminate both the seclusion and duplication of programs,” said Hensley, adding that when an informational meeting was held in Worcester, a formidable faction of Western Mass. organizations interested in the RFP turned out.

Hensley said a number of them joined forces to come up with the best possible collaborative idea. Loomis served as the lead organization in submitting a proposal that involved the cooperation of the college, which outlined the development of three courses for certified nursing assistants (CNAs), designed to better prepare them for their careers and for moving on in the health care profession, to jobs as LPNs or RNs, for instance.

The proposal was accepted, and with HCC as the primary training vendor, courses began for CNAs teaching basic skills such as communication, teamwork, and managing multiple priorities, as well

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