News & Publications: Press Releases

FHCA Announces Florida Hearts and Hands Program

New Personal Care Attendants Will Help Nursing Home Staff Provide Care to Residents, Provide Jobs for Furloughed Workers

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) today hailed a new state-approved program that will allow nursing homes to hire Personal Care Attendants to provide basic care services to their elder residents, freeing up more highly trained nursing professionals to provide more skilled care amid the COVID-19 crisis.

FHCA immediately launched a recruitment effort for the new Florida Hearts & Hands Program to target individuals, including in the hard-hit restaurant and lodging industries, who could be hired by nursing homes for the newly created positions. At a time when so many employers are leaving furloughed workers without a source of income, these positions can fill that gap while enabling the new recruits to begin path toward learning the skills to become Certified Nursing Assistants.

“This program really is a win-win for Florida, addressing critical staff shortages during a time of tremendous need at nursing homes while creating new job opportunities for individuals who find themselves unemployed through no fault of their own,” said FHCA Executive Director Emmett Reed. “We’ll provide the necessary training, and in short order these new Personal Care Attendants can be helping older residents in their daily routines.”

FHCA brought the idea for the new Personal Care Attendant (PCA) position to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), patterning it after a similar program initiated by FHCA’s Indiana counterpart. The agency quickly approved the program on a temporary basis, currently through May 1 but with flexibility to extend it if necessary. The goal of the program is to encourage individuals serving in these positions to consider career advancement in the long term care profession beyond the current emergency situation.

“The Agency for Health Care Administration has a clear and determined focus on ensuring the safety and welfare of Florida’s senior population in nursing homes, especially during the COVID-19 public health emergency,” said AHCA Secretary Mary Mayhew. “As workforce shortages may occur, creating this training pathway will allow long-term care facilities to hire essential staff to provide crucial support so residents can continue to receive quality care across our state.”

AHCA approved the Personal Care Attendant program to provide nursing homes with additional staff to care for residents during the current state of emergency and to train new workers to obtain the skills necessary to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). Personal Care Attendants will support existing CNAs by performing such duties as making up beds, checking residents’ temperatures, making sure residents have fresh ice water, transferring residents to wheelchairs, helping residents get dressed or use the bathroom, and providing bed baths.

“The individuals we hire into the Florida Hearts & Hands Program will be true heroes, helping our overburdened staff while making a direct impact on the lives of residents –  helping calm their fears, holding their hands through the tough times, sharing their stories,” Reed said.

An informal survey of FHCA members late last week showed that the 111 centers responding had an average of more than three staff vacancies each, important positions that are vital to properly caring for the elderly residents. Newly hired Personal Care Attendants would be required to complete a background check and an 8-hour training and would then be ready to begin working with nursing staff and residents.

To learn more about the Florida Hearts & Hands Program, including a Personal Care Attendant job description and links to search for open positions, visit

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April 1, 2020

Kristen Knapp, APR
(850) 510-4389 or