Transforming Long Term Care: Strengthening and Supporting Our Workforce

COVID-19; Workforce; Advocacy

This week is Careers in Aging Week, and the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) is shining a light on the long term care workforce. Strengthening and supporting the long term care workforce is one of the four strategies laid out in the Care For Our Seniors Act​, a comprehensive policy proposal announced by AHCA and LeadingAge. 

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. 

AHCA/NCAL has been calling attention to staffing shortages for years, including testifying before Congress twice in 2019. Now, the workforce crisis has worsened amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Illness or lack of childcare options forced many staff members to miss work, leaving those who were able to work stretched thin. 

The Care for Our Seniors Act offers a multi-tiered approach to attract, retain and develop the long term care workforce leveraging federal, state, and academic entities. 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 affordable housing, housing down payments, and childcare. 
Provide career ladder scholarships that would encourage staff to work their way into the 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. 

With a rapidly growing aging population, now is the time for substantive reform. The federal government estimates nearly 27 million people will need some kind of long term care by 2050. Our workforce must be prepared to meet this demand. We are ready to work collaboratively with Members of Congress to implement meaningful solutions that will help recruit and retain more health care heroes to serve in long term care. 

Read more about the workforce proposals in the Care for Our Seniors Act HERE​

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