By Tom Spencer, Staff Writer

The University of New Hampshire’s new certificate program intends to focus on training students to help patients assimilate back into the community.

The Thompson School of Applied Science is partnering with the Center on Aging and Community Living to deliver the community care certificate program, which is designed to prepare medical care providers, or those considering a career change, for entry level jobs in home and community care.

“TSAS and CACL recognized the need for the program and the unique course curriculum that could be jointly developed,” said Marguerite Corvini, research associate at the Center on Aging and Community Living.

The program aims to supply what the researchers felt was a lacking aspect of care coordination: UNH’s program is designed to focus on community integration, while many similar programs focus primarily on the medical work.

“Our program focuses on bridging the medical model of care with the community (or social services) model of care with the goal of supporting the multiple needs individuals have when trying to remain in a community setting,” Corvini said.

Programs like this one try to help fill a need expressed by hospitals and social workers alike. Coordinated care ends upon the patient’s discharge from the hospital, and sometimes, that’s too soon.

Over a year of research, including studying the curricula of similar programs ranging from the Alfus Healthcare Advocacy Certificate Program from the University of Miami, to the Patient Navigator Training Collaborative in Colorado to the Community Health Worker course in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The focus group consisted of representatives from the Center on Aging and Community Living, Families First, Home Care Association, Lamprey Health Care, Portsmouth Hospital, ServiceLink, Southern New Hampshire Area Health Education Center, Rural Health and Visiting Nurse Association.

The program’s 19-credit curriculum includes courses on food sanitation, human relations, computer skills and non-profit organizations. However, arrangements may be made for students who have previously completed comparable credits,

Among the skills students will learn are in-home care, transportation, health benefits and living assistance, but one strong focus is the community aspect of the work.

The course, “Person-Centered Systems: A Holistic Approach to Care Coordination,” is an example of the program’s community based focus.

“Many of the care coordination programs that we researched have a more medical focus,” said Susan Fox, the Associate Director of the Institute on Disability and Co-Director of the Center on Aging and Community Living at UNH.

“This program will bring a focus on person-centered approaches to serving the individual in need of support and assisting them to remain in a community-based setting,” Fox said.

“We hope to bridge both medical and social models of care to address the needs of the whole person.”

Students should be prepared with a working knowledge of the medical field and be prepared to learn how to integrate the knowledge with work in the community.

“Candidates need a medical background and knowledge on how to traverse the medical system, but in order to round out their education and skills, it is also necessary to provide them with courses that encompass what it means to work in the community,” Corvini said.

The course also includes capstone community projects designed by the student and his or her advisor.

“The emphasis is on the coordination of community care to encompass medical as well as social services, transportation, working with a variety of organizations, etc.” said Cynthia Giguere, the assistant director of the Thompson School of Applied Science.

The program has received no applicants since the announcement of its launch on Aug. 27, but there have been several inquiries according to Giguere.

Community care is one of the fastest growing fields in the medical world, with a growth in New Hampshire of over 50 percent predicted by 2020.

“I think this program is an excellent way for many UNH students to augment their primary major with practical skills that can be applied in numerous settings,” Giguere said.

Students interested in this program should contact Cynthia Giguere, assistant director of the Thompson School.