Taking a look at where we look for LTC talent

Elizabeth Newman
Elizabeth Newman

The solution to long-term care staffing needs in 2015 might be not just a question of more recruitment, but where and how you are recruiting.

A New York Times story on Christmas Day highlighted the “arduous job path for black grads,” and the beginning of the feature focused on a 23-year-old named William Zonicle. He had an internship at Florida Hospital in Tampa before his senior year and he completed college at Oakwood University last spring with a degree in healthcare management.

Yet he is still working part-time after a lack of luck with applying to jobs at hospitals and nursing homes. Lest you think it is just bad luck for him, the article discusses how the jobless rates for black college grads is more than twice as high as for white grads.

I brought the article to the attention of American Health Care Association Senior Vice President of Government Relations Clif Porter, who spoke frankly with me last month for a McKnight's profile. He reminisced about his own experiences building a career as a black executive in long-term care.

Porter, who had volunteered at a nursing home and loved it, worked hard at Virginia Commonwealth University. The school had a great track record of finding its newly minted graduates healthcare administration jobs. Not so for Porter.

“I couldn't get a job,” he said bluntly. “All of these slacker schleps around me were getting jobs.”

Porter had the presence of mind to talk to his college advisor and say to him that he would take any job — he just needed a chance to show long-term care what he could do.

“I am the proud product of organizations that gave me a chance and made an investment in me based on a meritocracy,” he told me in November. With regard to the NYT article, Porter wrote me, “It was interesting that the young man explored opportunities in long-term care and has received no response. Our field is much more diverse than when I started, but we still have a great deal of work to do.”

What we learn from these stories is not just that long-term care executive suites have a race and gender problem — although, as I've written before, it does — but that the industry is shooting itself in the foot. To be clear, as Porter told me, it's not that long-term care is an all-white field. There have always been minorities and women working in clinical or direct care roles. The issue is who is going into healthcare management, whether everyone is given a chance, and what support may or may not exist. There's been progress since Porter was applying for jobs in 1989, but not as much as one might have hoped.

It's not a secret that much of any job search, be it hirer or hiree, relies on networks — or more colloquially, whom you know. Everyone looks at their alumni networks, the people they meet at conferences, competing firms, or connections through networks such as LinkedIn. The question I have is whether long-term care chains or large vendor companies are showing up at the college fairs at universities such as Oakwood or Morehouse, or making efforts to showcase their work environment as a place where diversity is valued. Are there mentoring partnerships (as there are at many city hospitals) with community schools to showcase the wide assortment of jobs in healthcare? Is there tuition reimbursement or even unofficial encouragement for the certified nursing assistants or entry-level employees to soar toward something higher?

None of these is absolutely necessary, of course. Just tossing around ideas. Fundamentally, though, the main question I'm asking is: When searching for burgeoning talent, which is desperately needed in long-term care, where are the searches taking place?

Elizabeth Newman is Senior Editor at McKnight's. Follow her @TigerELN.  

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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