After issuing a record number of nursing home administrator licenses in early 2023, one state is adding even more flexibility to help operators hire and retain leaders.

These measures are aimed at addressing one facet of the ongoing nursing home staffing crisis in the US, as administrators face similar burnout and shortages that care workers are experiencing.

By the midpoint of 2023, Wisconsin’s Department of Safety and Professional Services had already issued more licenses to nursing home administrators than in recent full years, according to DSPS Secretary-designee Dan Hereth. That coincided with a 44% year-over-year increase in new licenses for all healthcare professionals issued by the department. 

To achieve these results, the department focused on streamlining its licensing workflow and added both new avenues and clarity to existing paths for those seeking licenses. 

“We’ve been able to improve our processes and invest in technology to speed up our department’s role in licensing,” a representative from DSPS told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. “We’re licensing more professionals more quickly than ever, and we’re hopeful to keep those numbers up in 2024.”

To that end, the department also is working to clarify which classes and programs help candidates meet the requirements for licensure. It is partnering with the University of Minnesota to have some of its classes pre-approved for the licensing process. 

Welcome changes

The new policies will help nursing homes address an increasingly worrisome turnover rate of nursing home administrators, according to Rene Eastman, vice president of financial and regulatory services at LeadingAge Wisconsin.

“LeadingAge Wisconsin members are extremely grateful that the state DSPS has made new paths to licensure available,” Eastman told McKnight’s. “Our state experienced 148 nursing home administrator turnovers in the first five months of 2023, and that’s in a state with only 336 licensed facilities — so we were on pace to a bad place.”

The new policies should be a significant help for people working in long-term care as they seek to advance through the profession and further their career goals, Eastman said. 

Making such new paths available will become increasingly vital across the country, as will ensuring reciprocity between states, according to Doug Olson, president and CEO of Vision Centre. 

“One of the things that the Vision Centre is interested in is making the career pathway more seamless and transparent so people can understand how they can move into that next level of practice,” Olson told McKnight’s

He emphasized that states across the country should focus on increasing the reciprocity of their licensure policies, including recognizing the qualifications of health services executives certified by the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards. Without such measures, long-term care could be staring down a serious administrator shortage by the end of the decade, he added.

Measures to increase clarity, transparency and inter-state reciprocity for licensing nursing home administrators will be vital to removing the existing barriers to the profession, Olson said.