Emmett Reed: More certified nursing assistants needed to ensure quality senior care
Asian nurse helping elder man walking in rehab facility.

Asian nurse helping elder man walking in rehab facility
Existing CNAs can connect directly with skilled nursing centers that have immediate openings to fill.

Florida is facing a critical need for certified nursing assistants (CNA) who make a vital impact on quality care and quality of life for the seniors and people with disabilities residing in our state’s skilled nursing centers.

Nationwide, nursing centers have lost nearly 238,000 employees — or 15% of our total workforce — since the start of the pandemic.

In Florida alone, that accounts for nearly 10,000 jobs lost.

While employment levels of most health care sectors, including hospitals, physicians’ offices, outpatient care centers, and other health care facilities, have nearly rebounded to the pre-COVID levels, the skilled nursing centers are experiencing a substantial workforce shortage.

With Florida home to one of the largest elderly populations in the country, it is vital to encourage individuals to make long-term care their chosen career path.

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The national demand for CNAs will grow 9% by 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.

To address this critical workforce need, the Florida Health Care Association’s Education and Development Foundation and the State of Florida, Agency for Health Care Administration have partnered on a grant-funded CaregiversFL Career Program that connects skilled nursing centers with individuals seeking a career in long-term care.

The Program is designed to raise awareness about the benefits of working in long-term care, including the career ladder opportunities, and increase the pool of applicants through an online hub that benefits both the job seeker and the employer.

Existing CNAs can connect directly with skilled nursing centers that have immediate openings to fill.

Individuals who are new to the profession will learn about CNA training programs as well as the opportunity to develop necessary skills and receive on-the-job experience through the Personal Care Attendant (PCA) Training Program made permanent by Florida’s Legislature during the 2021 session.

With just a high school diploma or GED, individuals can take the fast path to employment by beginning their journey as a PCA and training under the supervision of a licensed nurse as they prepare to challenge the CNA exam.

Since 2020, nearly 3,000 PCAs have taken the CNA exam, 73% of whom have successfully passed and received their CNA license.

LaToya Benefield was the day shift receptionist at Marianna Health & Rehabilitation Center in Marianna. When the PCA program was announced, she was the first to sign up. She attended classes, completed her clinical hours, and earned her CNA certification while also performing her full-time receptionist duties and caring for her family. Her lifelong dream is to become a caregiver following in the footsteps of her grandmother, Sherry, who worked in the medical field her entire career.

Success stories like these exist in skilled nursing centers across the state, and the CaregiversFL Career Program is making job seekers aware of how easy it is to start work as a CNA and the pathways for growth that this position affords.

Recruiting for Florida’s toughest job is a collaborative effort, and it is critical for the future of our state’s senior care. As COVID-19 has disrupted our long-term care workforce in many ways, we must ensure we strengthen our pipeline of caregivers and work together to raise awareness about long-term care as an opportunity for career growth.

Job seekers can sign up to get hired or learn more at florida.carefortheaging.org/job-seekers.

Skilled nursing centers can sign up to participate in the Program at florida.carefortheaging.org/employers.

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J. Emmett Reed, CAE, is the Florida Health Care Association CEO, representing over 87% of Florida’s skilled nursing centers. He can be reached at [email protected]

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