Training Initiative Aims to Thwart Caregiver Crisis

The key to solving the home health care labor shortage could lie in better training.

That’s the gist of a grassroots training program dubbed the Care Connections Project (CCP) from New York City-based nonprofit Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), an organization centered on improving the lives of workers who provide home or residential care.

The program, which began as a pilot with funding from the New York State Department of Health in 2015, was originally aimed at preventing unnecessary emergency room visits and re-hospitalizations among clients of Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA) and Independence Care System (ICS), which is PHI’s affiliated managed care agencies. The pilot also included two other agencies: JASA and Sunnyside Home Care.

“We trained a number of home health care workers to be what we called senior aides,” PHI’s Vice President for Organizational Learning, Sara Joffe, tells Home Health Care News. “It was a pretty intensive training process.”

Aides who participated in the original three-month training program underwent six weeks of classes and seven weeks of on-the-job training. There, they learned how to use telehealth tablets that let them monitor their clients’ conditions, how to manage schedules and transportation and how to keep up with treatment plans for chronic conditions.

Though the program officially ended in 2015, its clinical outcomes are still under analysis, and there are still six senior aides in the role, according to PHI. And the results show the the program paid off. The 14 aides who completed the training boosted their pay about 60%, or $11,000 more per year than the average home health care worker.

The home health care industry will add at least 630,000 new jobs by 2027, and training programs like this will play an important role in ensuring home health care “is a viable profession with livable wages and opportunities for growth,” PHI notes.

The nonprofit also hopes to use initiatives like the Care Connection Project to give agencies the tools to better train workers and keep more aides from leaving the industry during a crucial growth period.

“We want to improve the quality of this job,” Joffe says. “One of the ways of doing that is to have some kind of career ladder for aides so there’s a fair amount of interest.”

Outside of New York, the nonprofit is lending its expertise to providers, agencies, and other groups in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Maryland.

PHI also recently partnered with WorkingNation, a national campaign aimed at preparing workers for a changing labor market, to get the word out via a mini-documentary. The goal is for agencies across the U.S. to see the documentary, enlist PHI’s help and then implement the training to fit their needs.

“Our hope is to include this training in initiatives we’re working on in other states,” Joffe says.

Competence through confidence

A bump in pay isn’t the only thing aides stand to gain from the project—the training can make aides feel more valued and trusted.

Joffe says she has watched with pride as many of the aides who took part in the program have blossomed into veteran clinicians. Some of them are even teaching their newfound skills to their peers.

“It was lovely to see them get to that level of confidence and competence,” she says. “They started out being quite nervous in this role.”

The training isn’t the only way PHI aims to help make home health work a more attractive career choice.

In February, the nonprofit launched a campaign called “60 Caregiver Issues” to bring awareness to the industry’s need for more workers. Every two or three weeks until the end of 2018, the organization will highlight one of 60 caregiver issues it has identified through its research.

The issues are meant to garner public support and interest and inspire policymakers to “remedy the shortage and create a vibrant, sustainable system of long-term care,” according to the campaign’s website.

Written by Tim Regan

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Tim Regan
Tim is a lover of bad jokes and good beer. When he's not hunched over his work computer, Tim can usually be found hunched over his personal computer.

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