Addressing Shortfalls Within the Long Term Care Workforce Essential to Strengthening Nursing Home

Later this week the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor & Pensions will hold a hearing on workforce shortages in healthcare, a critically important focus for long term care providers across the country.  

A recent report in Axios sounded the alarm that health care employment is on the decline, with the nursing home industry in immediate danger. The article highlighted “a drop of about 19,500 nursing and residential care facility jobs, according to the latest labor report.” This rapid decline in employment underscores the urgent need to invest in the long term care workforce to help attract and retain dedicated workers. This is especially important given our rapidly-growing elderly population and the anticipated increase in demand for long term care services.

Workforce recruitment and retention has been a persistent challenge for long term care providers for years. There is an ongoing shortage of trained caregivers for a variety of critical roles. Although nurses and nurse aides are among the fastest growing occupations, supply is not keeping up with demand.

As members of Congress hold long overdue conversations about ways to strengthen the overall health care workforce, the American Health Care Association (AHCA) and LeadingAge have released a comprehensive reform proposal, the Care for Our Seniors Act, that offers several solutions to help build a strong long term care workforce. Solutions include: 

Financial assistance: 
Provide student loan forgiveness for licensed health care professionals who are new graduates and work in long term care.
Develop assistance programs for caregivers like affordable housing, housing down payments, and childcare.
Provide career ladder scholarships that would encourage staff to advance their career by becoming a registered nurse (RN) or other positions in aging services.
Funding for universities who have shown graduation rates with direct correlation to long term care hires with retention of two years or more.

Regulatory solutions:  
Create a pathway (including training and testing) for temporary nurse aides allowed by the current Public Health Emergency to become certified nurse aides.
Ensure the Nurse Licensure Compact is available in every state to be able to "share" RNs across state borders.
Expedite the progression in licensed practical nurse to RN bridge programs to increase the number of RNs.
Pass common-sense immigration reform that increases opportunities for foreign-born individuals to work in the long term care profession. Expand the ability for international nurses to come to the United States.

The long term care industry looks forward to working with lawmakers to strengthen the health care workforce to ensure every nursing home has the staff they need to provide the highest level of care to all residents. 

ABOUT AHCA/NCAL
The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) represents more than 14,000 non-profit and proprietary skilled nursing centers, assisted living communities, sub-acute centers and homes for individuals with intellectual and development disabilities. By delivering solutions for quality care, AHCA/NCAL aims to improve the lives of the millions of frail, elderly and individuals with disabilities who receive long term or post-acute care in our member facilities each day. For more information, please visit www.ahcancal.org​.