caregiver with resident

Organizers of a newly formed campaign to organize, fund and operate long-term care workforce recruitment, training and development programs hope their success will encourage other states to undertake similar efforts.

“We are planning to bring in people who might not have otherwise looked at aging services careers,” said Jeannie Parker Martin, president and CEO of LeadingAge California. The group has identified a current overall demand of 275,000 new healthcare workers in the state.

Parker Martin oversees the Gateway-In Project, a first of its kind, three-year pipeline program that will actively promote, recruit, train, and provide wrap-around services and retention incentives for thousands of new certified nursing assistants and home health aides in California.

In June, LeadingAge California’s new certified nursing assistant and home health aide training and development program was awarded a $25 million-plus grant by Cal HHS Department of Health Care Access and Information.

On a LeadingAge coronavirus call Monday with national members, Parker Martin said she hopes the group also will be able to tap more into the state’s $96.5 billion surplus, part of which includes COVID relief funds appropriated by Congress in 2021. The $25 million grant came from that effort. She said she hopes provider groups in other states will be encouraged by their successes in mustering support and funds for long-term care worker training and development programs.

The group’s Blueprint for Action has a “singular goal” of identifying and bringing 16,000 new workers into the state over a 10-year period. Parker Martin said Gateway-In is the first training and development program of its kind in the nation.

How they do it

Parker Martin laid out the broad elements of that document, the first of which was “aggressive” outreach.

“Through our outreach coordinators, we’ll be working to connect with high school students and special population groups like refugee the settlement agent agencies, as well as incumbent workers such as home health aides — particularly those interested in career advancement,” she added.

Other efforts include establishing high school-level internships in areas like housing care and services for older adults at LeadingAge member providers. Other workforce recruitment efforts may include training in areas such as empathy and disaster preparedness, free training and “extensive wrap around services” like childcare, English language training, medical language training, and stipends for supplies and transportation for home health aides and nursing and certified nursing assistants.

The group also plans to work with community colleges and universities to develop a certified nurse assistant and home health aide training curriculum.

The HCAI funds will be used to expand on certified nurse assistant and home health aide pipeline development, training and retention programs. For LeadingAge California, that includes adding 2,700 certified nurse assistants and home health aides to the workforce pipeline through training and job placement.

“Existing pipeline development and training programs are inadequate to fill the growing demand for CNAs and HHAs,” said Meghan Rose, the association’s general counsel and chief government affairs officer.

Aid for the aides

The program hopes to make headway by providing training, wraparound supports and incentives for career development for those entering or already in the field.

Earlier this week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services urged states to use their Medicaid programs to shore up training and ongoing education for CNAs and other staff, as the agency works to improve accountability. As part of an informational bulletin, CMS encouraged states to seek solutions for training and testing capacity issues within nursing facilities through collaboration with the states’ public health departments.

NAHCA, The National Association of Health Care Assistants, said it was pleased to see CNA education and training as a focus and encouraged other states to do more to strengthen the pipeline of frontline workers.

“We are eager to work with states to share our knowledge, experience, and best practices in this arena,” the organization said in a statement. 

NAHCA has developed its own training and certification programs designed to educate CNAs, build their skill sets and incorporate them into a clinical team.  But NAHCA also said states need to expand their training capacity — including online opportunities — to make it easier for CNAs to pursue education, testing and certification.