The challenge of attracting more talented workers to healthcare was a hot topic in the nation’s capital this week.
Not surprisingly, addressing workforce shortages was a hot topic of discussion during the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) Congressional Briefing this week in Washington, D.C. Over 400 participants heard from congressional representatives and others about what the future may hold. There was general optimism; and it was clear that many see opportunities arising out of challenges.
Among the speakers at the conference was Representative Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), whose mother spent time in a nursing home after her dementia progressed and it was no longer safe to keep her at home. “I’m a firm believer in your world,” she told her audience, praising the caregivers and other staff at the community where her mother resided.
Rep. Kuster said, “Every company, every nursing home I visit is desperate to attract nursing assistants, nurses, and other staff.” In her state, there are efforts to work with schools, colleges, and career/vocational centers to help attract more good people to healthcare careers. These activities include programs that enable people to work while going to college and creating career ladders that enable workers (such as licensed nursing assistants) to advance their careers.
Another speaker, Clif Porter, AHCA/NCAL senior vice president of government affairs, told the audience, “There is nothing I hear more about from you than workforce issues. This is a consistent concern.” He highlighted a few pieces of pending legislation designed to address workforce woes. Among them, the Geriatrics Workforce Improvement Act (S. 299) is a bill to amend title VII of the Public Health Service Act to reauthorize programs that support interprofessional geriatric education and training to develop a “geriatric-capable” workforce. Elsewhere, the Nursing Where It’s Needed Act (S. 1045) is designed to expand the authority of the Secretary of Health and Human Services to permit nurses to practice in health care facilities with critical shortages of nurses through programs for loan repayment and scholarships. There is “no silver bullet” to solve workforce shortages, Porter observed. However, if some of this legislation gets passed, it will be a positive step forward.
One way to help legislators understand the urgency of the workforce shortage is to share real stories about how important adequate staffing is to ensuring excellent care and quality of life for residents. “Know that your representatives appreciate hearing from you. They know how hard you work and are grateful for the services you provide,” Rep. Kuster said. She and other speakers urged audience members to take every opportunity possible to interact in a positive way with state and national lawmakers. They suggested inviting them to your community to share celebrations and special events, giving them an opportunity to meet residents and staff and see the good work you do every day, despite the many challenges facing the industry.
For more help with your workforce challenges, AHCA/NCAL has a Workforce Resource Center includes resources and tools for its members to learn more about effective strategies for recruitment, retention, and staff development. The association also has announced a partnership with PHI, a leading provider of workforce training programs, to help provide coaching, training, and consulting to help long term care providers deliver quality care.