Developing a qualified nurse assistant workforce using technology
John P. Reinhart
We are headed for a severe shortage of caregivers in the aging care profession, according to Paul Osterman, professor of human resources and management at MIT's Sloan School and author of Who Will Care For Us: Long-term Care and the Long-Term Workforce (Russell Sage Foundation, 2017).
A quick Google search reveals numbers as high as a shortage of 3.8 million by 2030. Recruiting, developing and retaining quality clinical staff is a challenge that every aging care facility in the U.S. faces daily. Almost all facilities have career opportunities for certified nurse assistants. It is a demanding, yet highly rewarding, profession that makes a true difference is the lives of both the residents they care for directly and their families.
Here are some of the challenges: For providers, nurse assistants are a critical component of their integrated care delivery teams. But the lack of access to training courses, limited availability of quality instructors, and the mandatory required course hours, especially in certain regional areas, creates a vacuum for attracting talent. The current options of in person facility-based training and community college classes have been unable to keep up with the increasing demand.
In many cases, facilities have limited RNs or LPNs who would be their best instructors, but also are the care team leaders for residents. In other areas, all current candidates for BSN nursing programs begin their clinical training as certified nurse aides and thus fill limited spots in classes.
Here is the opportunity: Many people are underemployed in this country and would value the opportunity to enter the health care field as a professional. They typically either don't have the funds, transportation or the time availability to enroll in traditional courses. Having access to a credentialed online nurse assistant training course led by qualified instructors, provides multiple benefits to student candidates. They can work full time while studying and taking classes with flexibility. They can access materials 24/7 from multiple devices including smartphones, tablets and PCs. The online course can be standardized for each state's regulatory requirements, yet customized for each organization's culture and onboarding experience. The ability to have qualified teachers is greatly enhanced utilizing online technology.
While many aspects of the nurse assistant training course can be effectively experienced through an online learning platform, each student will still be required to develop their clinical skills in person through hands-on training, so a physical lab space will still be necessary. In this manner, each facility's clinical leadership still retains the crucial ability to interact with all students and develop their capabilities firsthand also.
We see a real opportunity for the profession to develop a matching service that introduces students to regional facilities, who can then provide the space for skills training, and also scholarship funds, for the classes. This approach brings together aging care facilities and students who would like to be on a career path in the health care field. Students will be empowered for success when offered maximum flexibility and access to take classes when it suits their schedules. Our current millennial generation is comfortable with technology, and in many ways, expects to utilize it as a part of any job. Facilities that partner with an online course to provide the space for the skills training would benefit because they could engage and hire the future licensed nurse assistants who trained in their facility. Through this type of training process, future care team providers become familiar with their residents, processes and culture.
Many of us are currently, or will become, caregivers in the future for those we love. Through technology we can allow those seeking to dedicate their careers to this profession multiple opportunities to embark upon a truly satisfying journey. As the population continues to age with an extended life expectancy, embracing innovative models ensures we all can experience both quality care and quality lives. Technology, while an excellent and promising tool, should never take the place of human compassion and interactions.
John P. Reinhart is president and co-founder of Academic Platforms and a trained CNA. John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.