Florida is running out of space to care for seniors. This might help.

Florida is running out of space to care for seniors.  This might help.

The Biden administration last month imposed minimum staffing requirements on nursing homes for the first time, requiring them to increase their care to 3.48 hours of daily care per resident. This mandate aims to ensure high-quality patient care and reduce the burden on healthcare professionals.

But it brings new urgency to the need for innovative health care talent solutions in Florida, which sits at ground zero of the national shortage of qualified nursing staff amid a rapidly aging population.

Mel Martinez, a former United States senator from Florida, was born in Sagua La Grande, Cuba.

Sentinel of the Sun

Mel Martinez, a former United States senator from Florida, was born in Sagua La Grande, Cuba.

Florida already has the highest percentage of older residents in the United States, and seniors are projected to make up nearly a third of Florida’s population by 2030, a significant increase from the current 20%. . Nursing homes are essential to meeting the health needs of these elderly people.

In contrast, a recent study projects that Florida will experience a shortage of 60,000 nurses by 2035. Before the mandate, our nursing homes were already working hard to address the workforce shortage in anticipation of the influx next to elderly people. Recent efforts have reduced the RN vacancy rate from 21% in 2022 to 13% in 2023, but we will need additional investments to expand the healthcare workforce as a result of this mandate. Hiring more Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) will be even more critical to help meet these new minimum care requirements.

We need innovative workforce development solutions to address this burgeoning healthcare workforce crisis, both in Florida and across the country. Organizations like Goodwill, for example, offer free CNA training through local chapters in Florida. CareerEdge in Sarasota partners with Suncoast Technical College to offer a free accelerated CNA program.

Dwyer Workforce Development (DWD), a nonprofit healthcare workforce organization, addresses the severity of Florida’s healthcare workforce shortage through a holistic model that includes training, job placement assistance, comprehensive needs-based services like child care and transportation, and person-centered case management. to people who lack opportunities, helping them become registered CNAs as they juggle the demands of their personal lives.

DWD launched its services in Florida in 2023, starting in Brevard County with a partnership with CareerSource Brevard. They recently began offering their services in Polk County through a partnership with CareerSource Polk and Astoria Senior Living and will further expand their services to Chipola, Citrus, Levy, Marion and Sarasota counties this summer.

With unparalleled support and case managers, 81% of researchers have completed their CNA training program, and 86% of them have been successfully placed into careers in healthcare. For these promising workers, lack of child care, inadequate transportation, and unstable housing can make entering and remaining in the healthcare field seem like insurmountable obstacles.

The approach taken by all organizations to address this healthcare shortage must therefore continue to address the whole person. This comprehensive support will not only help bring more people into the field, but will also improve retention and program completion.

I am proud to help promote innovative solutions to this growing healthcare workforce crisis, in Florida and across the country.

Mel Martinez lives in Orlando, having served as a U.S. Senator from Florida and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President George W. Bush. He serves on the board of directors of Dwyer Workforce Development.