Prior to moving to Colorado and entering the staffing industry, I started a home and community-based service (HCBS)/home health agency for a center for independent living in northwest Ohio. The demand for reliable services from seniors and adults living with disabilities was high. With the organization’s mission of living independently, we thought it was essential to provide dependable quality aide services. We quickly learned how much we underestimated the challenges we would face with staffing that would haunt us for the next five years.
Over those years, I spent a lot of time talking about the growth home health was going to experience in the next 10-15 years. Then, I saw the increased funding in the proposed American Jobs Act. I was and still am very excited for my old colleagues and the future of the industry. Home health is an essential service and demand will continue to grow as more services are provided in the home and acute facilities continue to push for shorter hospital stays.
This raises an important question. How can a home health agency utilize the shot-in-the-arm funding to grow if there is a shortage of qualified staff? My previous experience offered a host of unique opportunities that we capitalized on. The parent organization of our HCBS was a stop on several local nursing school clinical visits. I utilized some of that time to educate young nursing students about the future opportunities in home health, the whole health of a patient, and what the day to day would look like while working in the field. We always ended up with at least one student agreeing to work as an aide while finishing school, with the hope they would turn into a long-term home health RN!
Still, this was not enough to satisfy the demand that we experienced. So, we turned to the local hospital system. Of course, they were grappling with the same nursing and aide shortage that is occurring across the country, so they jumped in and partnered with us. Along with the hospital system, their long-term care division, and a local vocational program, we were able to utilize education grants to start a free nurse’s aide program and start funneling future healthcare workers into home health and long-term care.
During the clinical presentations mentioned earlier, I always started with the question, “Who here thinks they will work in home health care at any time in their nursing career?” I will bet you can guess how many people raised their hands. Most nursing students are not familiar with home health and the opportunities it holds. The sooner the future generation of nurses learns about home health, the better the industry will do in the long term.
If the American Jobs Act is passed, the increase in funding will certainly help home health agencies grow and utilize traditional employment agencies such as local and travel staffing agencies to help in the short term. Medical Solutions is already seeing a significant uptick in home health agency usage to prepare for the growth. However, the long-term solution to adequate staffing will take some creativity and education of our future healthcare professionals.
Aaron started with Medical Solutions in the fall of 2019, where he helps acute and post-acute healthcare facilities develop quality staffing solutions. Prior to working for Medical Solutions, he started a non-profit home health agency in northwest Ohio that was a subsidiary of The Ability Center of Greater Toledo. This was an extension of a project started while obtaining his MBA from Lourdes University in Sylvania, OH where he graduated top of his class and earned several service and leadership awards and recognitions.