James Madison University

Melissa Honig (’02): Health Services Administration Alumna

By: Christine Borkowski
Posted: March 26, 2012

PHOTO: Melissa HonigMelissa Honig graduated from JMU in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in health services administration (HSA). From her time at JMU she reflects on the genuine concern, care and advice she received from her HSA professors.  She praised, “I am incredibly grateful for the insight and coaching provided to me by Dr. Thompson and Dr. Cockley.”

The JMU HSA program curriculum provided Honig hands-on experience at various sites such as nursing homes, assisted living sites, adult day programs, and continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). “This onsite, experiential opportunity for learning provided a window into the continuum of care options. How nice it was to know what’s out there before stepping into the real world!”

Honig’s JMU professors highlighted the importance of completing an Administrator-in-Training (AIT) program and pursuing the Nursing Home Administrator license. “That experience allowed me to step inside the shoes of department directors, providing me with a true appreciation for the contributions of all teams.  This set a strong foundation for work with operating organizations.”

Post-Graduation Experience with Health Services Administration


Following graduation from JMU in 2002, Honig has accrued much experience in HSA. She has been a student, a volunteer and an advocate for change in America’s senior health systems. She also received her Master of Health Services Administration degree in Management and Leadership from George Washington University in 2007.

Prior to her current position at The Green House Project, Honig completed her Administrator-in-Training program at a CCRC in Alexandria, Va. “In my long-term care career, I’ve fulfilled several roles within operations, such as Admissions Coordinator and Community Life Associate (traditionally known as “Activities”),” Honig explained.

Honig has publicly spoken on culture change and person-directed care at the university level as well as in both local and national forums. “Long term care (LTC) is not what it used to be. Thanks to the culture change movement, nurses, Administrators, and staff have more meaningful career options.”

On Improving the Lives of our Elders


 “Improving the lives of elders has always been my passion,” Melissa Honig (’02) explained. “Just because someone needs nursing care does not mean they should have to give up control, dignity, or choice.” Many elders and their families choose LTC facilities when they need additional assistance with everyday processes of health and care.

Honig is very passionate about the current status of LTC facilities in America today. According to a recent study by Dr. April Temple and Dr. Jon Thompson of the HSA program, one-third of JMU’s current HSA students are seriously considering a career in LTC.

Honig believes that it is fundamental that people in nursing homes should have a say in decision making processes. Such decisions include what they do in their spare time, when they wake, what they eat and when. “They should know their care partner and be in real relationships. My interest is in making this a reality,” Honig addressed.

Her current position as the Project Guide for The Green House Project is creating that reality for elders. Honig expressed, “I am excited to continue working in the culture change field.  There is so much progress to be made!  Until people look forward to moving into a nursing home, I will be working to create more person-centered environments.”

The purpose of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded national program is to transform institutional LTC by restoring individuals to a home in the community. Through this process, Honig is happily working to change general attitudes towards the aging population by working with approximately 13 LTC organizations.

The Green House model Honig uses was developed by Dr. William Thomas and is rooted in the Eden Alternative, a model for cultural change within nursing facilities. “Dr. Thomas’ vision is to build a new type of residence that is a real home to the elders who live there, while also meeting regulatory requirements,” Honig explained.

Honig’s passion for change in her field is fervent and will continue to be. She said, “Nursing home administration is not about managing people and budgets.  Today, leaders in this profession have the opportunity to create real relationships with elders and those who serve them.”

Learn more about the JMU Health Services Administration program on their website.

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