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New Federal Mandate Worsens Workforce Shortage; Increases Need for Community Workforce Solutions

By Barb Clapp

Florida’s healthcare system is poised to be the most at risk of any state, following the Biden administration’s recent announcement of a new nursing home staffing mandate. This federal mandate will require nursing homes to increase their care to 3.48 daily care hours per resident.

Nationally, only 60 percent of nursing homes currently meet the mandate’s required hours of daily care. The remaining 40 percent of nursing homes must hire thousands of nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) to meet the new minimum care requirements. Healthcare associations around the country disagree with this approach, as it immediately exacerbates the healthcare workforce shortage nursing homes are already challenged with.

Florida has the highest percentage of senior residents in the nation and their portion of the population will continue to grow as seniors move to our state and current residents’ age. So nursing homes in Florida are particularly vital to our seniors’ quality of healthcare. It is projected that seniors will account for almost a third of Florida’s population by 2030, a significant increase from today’s 20 percent.

Florida has faced a severe healthcare workforce shortage for years, with a recent study projecting that Florida will have a shortage of 60,000 nurses by 2035. Prior to the mandate, our nursing homes were already working hard to address the workforce shortage in anticipation of the upcoming influx of seniors. Recent efforts have reduced the vacancy rate for registered nurses from 21% in 2022 to 13% in 2023, but this new mandate diminishes that progress and requires additional investments into our healthcare workforce.

Dwyer Workforce Development (DWD), a healthcare workforce nonprofit, is addressing the severity of Florida’s healthcare workforce shortage by offering its services in the state. DWD’s unique model provides training, job placement support, need-based wraparound services, and person-centered case management to individuals who lack opportunities, helping them become registered Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) in the state. With unmatched support and case managers, 81% of DWD’s scholars have completed their CNA training program, with 86% of those scholars successfully placed in a healthcare career.

DWD launched its services in the state in 2023, starting in Brevard County with a partnership with CareerSource Brevard. They are nearing the end of their first year of the program and finalizing training for over 50 local candidates to become healthcare professionals in the county.

Last month, DWD began offering its services in Polk County through a partnership with CareerSource Polk and Astoria Senior Living. DWD will further expand its services to Chipola, Citrus, Levy, Marion, and Sarasota counties this summer. This expansion is only the start for DWD as they pursue additional much-needed partnerships statewide.

While nursing homes search for nurses and CNAs to fill their workforce shortages and adhere to the new mandate, Dwyer Workforce Development is working with these local partners to train Floridians to fill those positions immediately. This is the kind of action needed to ensure that Florida’s seniors receive quality healthcare for years to come.

Barb Clapp is the CEO of Dwyer Workforce Development.

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