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Who will care for Florida's growing senior population?

Each day, more than 1,200 people move to Florida — a rate far higher than any other state in the nation. As more and more individuals make the decision to call Florida home, we as a state must prepare for the growing number of seniors that will be in our care.

Florida’s long-term care centers are grappling with a severe workforce shortage. As the demand for a skilled long term care workforce continues to rise — while the shortage of skilled labor continues to expand — we are presented with a tough question: who will care for our aging population?

In his FY 2024-2025 proposed budget, Gov. Ron DeSantis recommended a 1% increase to Florida’s nursing centers and their residents, while Senate President Kathleen Passidomo recently announced a Live Healthy Initiative designed to grow Florida’s healthcare workforce. 

While these are good first steps, we are still falling short of the strong investments we need in Florida’s long-term care centers to ensure residents receive the high-quality care they deserve. t.

I recently testified to the Florida Senate Committee on Health Policy to offer insight into the nursing home workforce shortage and suggest innovative solutions to strengthen Florida’s healthcare workforce. 

The shortage of trained caregivers was magnified by the pandemic and unfortunately, long-term care — which lost nearly 10,000 jobs as a result — has yet to recover. Over the past 10 years, the number of individuals testing to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) has been reduced by half. Just recently the federal government 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 our CNAs.

We’re losing our frontline caregivers at a time when more and more seniors are relying on long-term care.

My care centers have done everything from wage increases to sign-on bonuses to recruit staff, but there are barriers affecting our recruitment efforts that are beyond our control. 

A recent survey by the Florida Health Care Association of nearly 140 nursing homes revealed that over the last three years, providers had to increase wages by almost 25% for CNAs, over 20% for LPNs, and almost 18% for Registered Nurses (RNs). 

Despite this, 95% of nursing home operators find it challenging to recruit and retain staff. Nearly all nursing homes reported having vacancies for CNAs or direct caregivers, LPNs, and RNs. Competition with other healthcare providers such as hospitals and an inability to offer competitive pay were cited as the main reasons for recruitment difficulties. 

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