The home’s latest annual inspection, in March 2013, showed signs of progress, with fewer and less-serious deficiencies.
Another challenge Sharp faces is the perception that she took a shortcut to getting her health care facility administrator’s license. While most long-term care administrators get a license after formal training and a rigorous licensing exam, Sharp did not.
Instead, she obtained her license late in 2013 through a relatively new waiver option that credits military experience in lieu of traditional licensing requirements.
Sharp said she would have preferred to go back to college for a health facility administrator’s license, but the timing never worked out.
In 2012, while Sharp was working as a nurse at Indiana Veterans’ Home, the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency began granting military waivers for the first time.
That doesn’t mean a military experience waiver is automatically given, said Sue Swayze, communications director for the state licensing agency. Requirements for licensing are up to individual licensing boards.
“That happens hardly at all,” she said of the military option. “It’s very rare.”
Sharp’s application went before the Indiana State Board of Health Facility Administrators on Nov. 19. Board members voted unanimously to waive the administrator-in-training exam as well as the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards exam.
Sharp enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1982 and spent three years of active duty as a combat medic. She then earned a nursing degree from Indiana University and transferred to the U.S. Army Reserves, where she continued as a combat medic, corpsman, nurse, executive officer and ultimately commander of the 801st Combat Support Hospital, B Company.
She also has worked as a nurse and nursing supervisor at various facilities in the state, including Logansport State Hospital, a mental health facility.
She joined Indiana Veterans’ Home as a charge nurse in 2010, then was promoted to nursing unit manager in March 2012. She was named director of nursing in 2013. Her appointment as superintendent became effective Jan. 12. She continues to serve in the Army Reserves.
Despite her lack of formal training or experience running a long-term health care facility, Sharp believes her military background and experience as a nursing administrator have positioned her well.
“Serving as the commander of a combat support hospital has given me a broad foundation to lead a diverse group of people in a complex health care organization,” she said. “The military molded me.”
Andrea Smothers, ombudsman for Area IV Agency on Aging and Community Action Program, fields complaints about care at nursing homes in Tippecanoe and surrounding counties. Familiar with the darker days of the home’s past, she said she’s noticed improvements in the past year. She called Sharp “very patient focused.”
Smothers said 2013 saw a marked decrease in complaints lodged by residents or residents’ families. She said a reduction in staff turnover, which was quite high under the previous permanent superintendent, is helping.