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FHCA Member Testifies to Lawmakers on Workforce Crisis: ‘Staffing shortage can’t be solved overnight.’

Tallahassee, Fla. - The Florida Senate Committee on Health Policy, chaired by Senator Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland), held a workshop and panel discussion Tuesday on healthcare workforce challenges. Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) member Jennifer Lawrence, Chief Nursing Officer for Aston Health, joined the panel discussion to offer her insight into the nursing home workforce shortage and present innovative solutions to strengthen Florida’s healthcare workforce.

“This staffing shortage can’t be solved overnight,” said Lawrence. “It’s going to take strategies to address the challenges, including assistance for potential and current caregivers, educational opportunities and streamlined pathways to develop their skills and resources to help nursing centers build a strong pipeline of caregivers.”

Lawrence, a Registered Nurse and Vice Chair of FHCA’s Senior Clinicians Council, oversees the nursing practice for Aston Health’s 41 skilled nursing and assisted living facilities across Florida. In her testimony, Lawrence told Senators that the shortage of trained caregivers was magnified by the pandemic, and long-term care, which lost nearly 10,000 jobs as a result, has yet to recover.

A recent study found that while nursing and residential care had the highest wage growth across healthcare settings, employment in those fields is still 5.7% below pre-pandemic levels.

“As the conversations around strengthening Florida’s healthcare workforce continue, I believe it’s important that we have a level playing field for health care providers so we can ensure that Floridians receive the best possible care at the right place at the right time,” said Lawrence. “When nursing centers, hospitals, home health and hospice providers are all competing for the same talent, the unintended consequences will be felt by our patients and residents.”

Lawrence pointed to potential solutions such as assistance programs for affordable housing down payments, childcare for health care workers, tuition reimbursement or employee grant programs to incentivize individuals to choose a career in long term care, and partnerships between nursing centers and local colleges or CareerSource boards to advance and upskill current staff.

In the past 10 years, the number of individuals testing to become a certified nursing assistant in Florida has been reduced by half. Recently, the federal government has proposed a national staffing mandate that excludes Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), who are critical members of the care team and the next step in the career ladder for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs).

“We’re losing our frontline caregivers at a time when more and more seniors are relying on long term care,” said Lawrence. “Florida Health Care Association wants to be part of the solution, and we look forward to partnering with the Legislature on how we can attract, keep and develop long term care staff to meet the needs of our state’s seniors, today and into the future.”



November 15, 2023

Kristen Knapp, APR
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