AHCA Teams with PHI, Launches Long-Term Care Workforce Center

Two of the biggest names in long-term care advocacy have teamed up to create a new online workforce center aimed at curbing persistent staffing pressures at skilled nursing and senior housing facilities.

The American Health Care Association (AHCA), in conjunction with the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), on Monday launched the Workforce Resource Center, a website with information on training and professional development initiatives for providers and workers.

Speaking at AHCA’s annual convention and expo in San Diego on Monday, president and CEO Mark Parkinson said staffing issues have shot to the top of the concerns he hears from providers. Eight years ago, when he took over the group that represents for-profit long-term care providers, operators mostly told him about reimbursement woes. Now workforce issues dominate the list, he said, as administrators and executives struggle with record-low unemployment figures that put workers in the driver’s seat.

“That’s fantastic for the country, but it makes it really, really hard just to find workers at all,” Parkinson said.

As part of the roll-out, AHCA invited certain providers to share their employment success stories. At Genesis HealthCare (NYSE: GEN), some of that progress has come through recruiting candidates who never expected to work in long-term health care, according to vice president of legislative affairs LaShuan Bethea.

“We not only need to focus on those individuals that are actively seeking employment in our sector; we also need to focus on those who are passive candidates,” Bethea said. “Those are candidates who may not be particularly seeking employment in our sector — however, they may be looking for employment.”

Genesis has enrolled 350 people in certified nursing assistant (CNA) training programs, with all but two of those individuals still working in the company’s facilities to date. The Kennett Square, Pa.-based skilled nursing giant has also found success by pitching the nursing setting as more exciting and potentially career-building than previous generations of nurses have believed.

Whereas the nursing home used to be a kind of minor-league assignment for young graduates hoping to one day break into hospitals, Genesis now emphasizes that the rise of higher-acuity patients in the space means real-world training opportunities with patients who may have been in hospitals 20 years ago.

“The hospitals aren’t the only places that are providing this high level of medical, skilled care,” she said.

For Casey King, executive director of regulatory compliance at continuing care retirement community (CCRC) operator The Wesley Communities, competition for solid employees has been fierce. Not only does her community square off with Ohio State University for jobs in their shared hometown of Columbus, but Amazon recently opened a new fulfillment center in the area, putting further pressure on its hiring practices.

“We suffer from a shortage of qualified applicants, so that has made it very hard for us,” King said.

Wesley has focused on a variety of cultural and financial efforts to hire and retain workers, including a shared fund that helps employees pay for certain unexpected expenses — including, for one employee, travel to Africa for a funeral — and a residential property where employees can live at a significantly discounted rate. Some workers who have taken Wesley up on that housing offer include an employee who had been living in her car, as well as those going through marital problems at home.

Still, while some providers have developed solid strategies, Parkinson admitted the road ahead remains tough.

“Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet — there’s nothing we can do to have 15 qualified CNA applicants to show up at every building,” he said.

Written by Alex Spanko

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Alex Spanko on Twitter
Alex Spanko
Alex covers the long-term health care industry for Aging Media Network, with a specific interest in the intersection of finance and policy. Outside of work, he reads nonfiction, experiments in the kitchen, enjoys pretty much any type of whiskey or scotch, and yells at Mets games — often all at the same time.

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