As the long-term care field continues to struggle to find talent, looking overseas could be one solution to filling nursing home hiring gaps, according to new research.

The LeadingAge LTSS (long-term services and supports) Center @UMass Boston released three new reports this week, detailing the promises of tapping into the foreign labor market to address staffing needs. Getting creative with hiring is going to prove essential, they note, as life expectancies increase and the population continues to grey.

Already, about one-quarter of CNAs and one-third of homecare workers are immigrants, notes Natasha Bryant, managing director and senior research associate with the LTSS Center, and the reports’ lead author.

“Here in the U.S., the demographics are upside down — more people who need care, and a smaller group of potential caregivers,” she told McKnight’s. “At our Town Hall meetings held around the country over the past nine months, we hear again and again of our members’ difficulties in recruiting the staff they need. This is a crisis.  Foreign-born workers are one solution to meeting current and future workforce needs.”

The LTSS Center conducted its research over the course of a year by scanning literature and interviewing providers across Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the U.S. Researchers note that foreign-born nurses make up about 5% of those employed in the LTSS sector in most of Europe and North America. Personal care assistants, meanwhile, account for between 19% and 25% of LTSS providers in Canada, Ireland, the U.K. and the U.S.

Migrant workers are much more prevalent in homecare, they found, which researchers believe is attributable to less stringent working requirements, along with nursing homes’ organizational structures, which often require more advanced language skills.

LeadingAge offers several steps that countries across the globe might take to priming the foreign-born worker pipeline, such as using formal channels to verify the trustworthiness of potential employers and employees, possibly through establishing a registry, and by implementing effective workforce enforcement procedures to protect workers, employers and residents.

In its “Research Snapshot: Hiring and Integrating Foreign-Born Nurses and Personal Care Assistants in Long-Term Services and Supports,” LeadingAge offers tips for integrating workers into nursing homes’ organizational structures, and possible challenges to expect — including language and cultural barriers, racial and ethnic discrimination, and stressful working conditions. Providers can address some of these challenges by offering appropriate orientation, training and support; developing cultural competence; and staying proactive in monitoring and addressing discrimination and conflict in the workplace.

“Finally, it is important for providers to remember that many common fears about hiring foreign-born workers are unwarranted,” the authors wrote. “Most foreign-born workers take pride in their work and want to do it well. And most providers report positive experiences in the employment of these workers.”