James M. Berklan, Editor

One of the most inscrutable challenges for long-term care providers today is how to get enough qualified workers — and then pay them enough to keep them around.

Unfortunately, there is a cost escalator that — ironically — is creating a downward spiral for many operators. Agency nursing. Or contract nursing, if you prefer.

Actually, you probably don’t prefer to talk about it any more than you have to. Most providers would rather have a weekly colonoscopy than resort to an agency to fill staffing gaps.

Yet if a provider wants to keep providing, it often has to take that step … and then hustle to shore up reserves at the bank to pay the bill. Tales of outrageous agency nursing costs have been more frequent during these stretch-out days of the pandemic.

We’re reported many times on this topic, as you are well aware. Today, we take it to a new level. We are releasing a pair of McKnight’s Newsmakers podcasts that bring additional life to this supreme provider challenge, among others.

In one, Zach Shamberg, the president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, speaks of the strain that his state’s providers are facing, along with the search for inspiration at the AHCA/NCAL annual convention.

McKnight’s Kim Marselas and PHCA’s Zach Shamberg in the McKnight’s podcast booth.

In the other, Brendan Williams, the president and CEO of the New Hampshire Health Care Association, outlines the struggle of not having enough “home grown” licensed nursing candidates. He speaks frankly about where providers might be wasting their energy. And he relates the sick feeling of being held hostage (not his exact phrasing) that comes with staffing agencies seemingly able to charge whatever exorbitant prices they want to.

He also speaks of potential fixes to get around the sticky Catch-22 dependency the nursing agency presents. He’s hoping to bring in the really big guns for some relief.

At about eight minutes each, these intriguing podcasts will leave you riveted — and require less time to read than it takes to drink your cup of coffee.

With these and future podcasts, you’ll get to hear the wheels turning inside the minds of some of long-term care’s top newsmakers and stakeholders. You’ll benefit from their insights, feel their pain and experience their moments of pleasure, too.

Such is the value of a vibrant podcast that knows how to get in, inform and get out.

We think you’re going to enjoy these personality-laden discussions as we release them in the coming days and months. You’ll see them pop up in editions of the Daily Update and in our social feeds.

Join the discussion and let us know what you think — and also whom you might like to hear from in the future.

There’s nothing like getting it straight to your own ears.

Follow Executive Editor James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.