As the skilled nursing industry continues to grapple with recruiting and retaining solid talent, leaders at a New York City-based SNF have taken the matter into their own hands by developing an academic approach to combating the shortage.
The organization established its Geriatric Career Development (GCD) program in 2006 to not only keep its pool of nursing talent filled, but to also mold the next generation of workers by offering local at-risk youth education and training towards a viable career in the health care field.
The GCD program recruits students ages 14 to 24, targeting local “under-resourced high schools” with four-year graduation rates at or below 70%, according to John Cruz, program director at The New Jewish Home.
Located in the city’s Upper West Side, Jewish Home provides a full range of senior care services, including long-term care, senior housing, short-stay rehabilitation, and home care.
Cruz played a role in spearheading the GCD program 11 years ago. Since then, the group has taken to social media as part of its recruitment efforts, and continues to host informational sessions with local schools and community-based organizations.
In addition to answering the growing need for skilled nursing workers, Cruz highlighted another pillar of the program: providing the community’s underserved youth an opportunity for professional development.
The program works to close what he calls the “education achievement gap,” particularly for area high-school students from challenging socioeconomic backgrounds.
“The vast majority of youth in these communities are black or Hispanic, with significant numbers of residents living below the poverty line, as is the case for most of our GCD students,” Cruz explained in an e-mail to Skilled Nursing News. “These students face challenging barriers, such as extreme poverty, unsafe neighborhoods, and schools that are under-resourced with low academic performance that impede them from fulfilling their academic and career potential.”
To enroll in the GCD program, high school participants — typically sophomore and juniors — must have a “general interest” in health care; older students ages 18 to 24 are required to complete an online application and participate in a group interview with program coordinators.
The program requires a two- to three-year commitment from participants and provides hands-on training to students as they work and care for the community’s residents.
“[The program] provides [students] with an opportunity to become clinically trained, professionally developed, receive part-time work and earn healthcare certifications, making them immediately employable to have income as they progress through school,” said Cruz. “Older out-of-school ‘disconnected’ youth participate in a fast-track, three-month program to become home health aides; they are also immediately employable and many continue on a career advancement and higher education trajectory.”
In addition to providing students with nursing and caregiving skills, the program allows them to play a “meaningful role” in the lives of residents. This dynamic affords them an opportunity to develop non-technical skills as well, according to Cruz.
“The intergenerational component provides ‘soft skills’ crucial to effective care,” he said.
The program has an annual operating budget of approximately $1 million, sustained entirely by funding through grants from individuals, foundations, corporations and government entities, according to Cruz.
Since GCD began, more than 600 students have graduated from the program, with 91% being currently employed, enrolled in post-secondary programs, or both, he said.
Upon completion, GCD students receive ongoing career development support and can earn state and/or national licenses as a home health aide, certified nursing assistant, phlebotomy technician, or patient care technician, among others.
Looking ahead, Jewish Home will be focusing on nurturing its relationship with community leaders to foster the growth of the program.
“The program is looking to expand in size by working with schools or organizations that may seek to replicate this type of program within their districts or communities,” said Cruz.
Written by Carlo Calma