LHC Group Inc. (Nasdaq: LHCG) is making major investments in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions — to the tune of $20 million. The funds are part of a new partnership announced Thursday.
With this partnership, LHC Group and UL Lafayette’s interests dovetail. The investment will fuel each organization’s efforts when it comes to equipping more nurses and other health care professionals, particularly in a home-based care context.
For LHC Group, planting seeds now will allow the company to advance its recruitment and retention efforts later. The Lafayette Louisiana-based company is one of the largest home health, hospice and personal care providers in the country.
“This is a strategic investment in our future, particularly that of our LHC Group family of health care providers – our greatest asset and most important resource,” Keith Myers, LHC Group chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “Advancing employee education is one of the strongest and most strategic differentiators for employee recruitment and retention.”
LHC Group’s investment will set up both in-person and virtual degree programs, including nursing programs. The investment also allows UL Lafayette to provide support for a simulation lab program and to earmark discretionary funds for professional development activities.
Additionally, the investment will create a faculty research and development fund while supporting new professorships in nursing and health sciences. As part of the investment, UL Lafayette will place LHC Group representatives in adjunct roles within its college of nursing.
“We have deep ties with LHC Group, and we have common missions built on service and providing compassionate care,” Dr. Melinda Oberleitner, the college’s dean, said in a statement. “The company knows firsthand who we are and the quality of education we provide. This partnership will enable us to accelerate and enhance this important work.”
The partnership isn’t LHC Group’s first foray into the academic space.
Last year, LHC Group teamed up with South Louisiana Community College (SLCC) to form a home health education program. Along with the Myers Family Foundation, LHC Group threw $2.5 million into the program.
Prior to this, SLCC and LHC Group launched an immersive training program meant to give nursing students experience in a home setting.
This is significant because, in terms of recruitment, home health providers typically have fewer nursing candidates to choose from since many nursing programs prioritize institutional settings.
“They don’t have a lot of exposure to home health while they’re in school — many of them do not see it as a career path when they graduate,” Nancy Bohnarczyk, clinical assistant professor and nurse residency program director at Rutgers School of Nursing, previously told Home Health Care News. “Most of their experience in school has been in the hospital setting, so that just seems to be the natural flow for them to pursue. It is an environment they’re a little more familiar with.”
Aside from LHC Group, other providers have also taken an active role in building out the home-based care workforce over the years.
For example, Johns Hopkins’ Cross-Continuum Nurse Fellowship program trains experienced nurses to become experts in home health, then allows them to rotate between the home and an acute care setting.
Still, LHC Group’s investment in UL Lafayette’s nursing program is particularly noteworthy because it directly addresses the U.S. nursing shortage.
“The nursing profession is a critical part of our nation’s health care infrastructure,” Myers said. “Unfortunately, we’re dealing with a national shortage of nurses across all sectors of the health care industry. Nursing schools are struggling to find the resources needed to expand enrollment and meet both the demands of today and of tomorrow. We believe this is an innovative and forward-thinking way for our company to step up and help address this need.”
Indeed, rising nurse retirement rates, the aging population and an inadequate amount of nursing school faculty members are just some of the factors that have contributed to this shortage, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
Overall, there will be about 175,900 openings for registered nurses each year through 2029, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
LHC Group’s $20 million investment will be paid over 10 years. In addition to the previously noted benefits, the new funding for UL Lafayette will also support scholarship efforts.