Strengthening Long Term Care Workforce Key to Providing Transformational Change in Nursing Homes

The latest jobs report from the federal government renews the need to address the U.S. long term care workforce crisis. Axios reported yesterday, “Health care employment in the U.S. remained sluggish last month, with a drop of about 19,500 nursing and residential care facility jobs, according to the latest labor report.” The economic crisis caused by the pandemic is apparent, and while policymakers should take immediate action to protect health care jobs, we should also develop a more substantial plan to ensure our nation’s seniors have the caregivers they need. 

This is especially important given our rapidly-growing elderly population and the anticipated increase in demand for long term care services. In fact, the federal government estimates nearly 27 million people will need some kind of long term care by 2050. Meanwhile, last week, the federal government reported historic declines in birth rates, leading many to worry whether we will have enough caregivers to support an aging America. 

A strong workforce is a key element in improving quality of care in our nation’s nursing homes. The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) has long called for policies that will help attract and retain the most dedicated to work in the profession – now it’s time to implement them. AHCA and LeadingAge’s comprehensive reform proposal, the Care for Our Seniors Act, offers several solutions that will help build a strong long term care workforce. Proposed 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 COVID-19 pandemic has exemplified the critical role of long term care workers within our health care system, and we must work together to support them. With the assistance from Members of Congress and state lawmakers, we can create more meaningful jobs, ensure our nursing homes are adequately staffed, and in turn, ensure that all seniors are able to receive the best care possible. 

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.​