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National LTC Commission Hears Testimony on the Direct-Care Workforce

August 22, 2013

The direct-care workforce was the topic of a panel discussion at the fourth and final public hearing of the federal Commission on Long-Term Care, held on August 20 in Washington, DC.

A panel of long-term care experts noted the many challenges facing the direct-care workforce, including poverty-level wages, poor career-advancement opportunities, difficult relationships with supervisors, and a lack of respect from other health care professionals.

“As a result of all these factors, turnover rates are high among direct-care workers in all settings of care, which may in turn lead to poor clinical outcomes,” said Tracy Lustig, senior program officer at the Institute of Medicine, during her testimony (pdf).

“The need for direct-care workers is particularly dire,” Lustig added. “To improve the quality of these jobs, more needs to be done to improve job desirability, including greater opportunities for career growth, increased pay, and access to fringe benefits.”

Meanwhile, fellow panelist Charissa Raynor, executive director of SEIU Healthcare NW Training Partnership, spoke about the necessity of creating a federal training standard for home care workers.

The cost of instituting such a standard, Raynor argued in her testimony (pdf), “will be more than offset by decreasing turnover and vacancy rates.”

She also argued for better-quality data collection on the home care workforce in order to more efficiently address workforce issues.

Other panelists who spoke about workforce issues were:

  • Suzanne Mintz, founder, Family Caregiver Advocacy (testimony)
  • Charlene Harrington, professor emeritus of sociology and nursing, University of California at San Francisco (testimony)

The Commission has heard testimony about the importance of the direct-care workforce before. At a commission hearing on July 17, PHI Government Affairs Director Carol Regan spoke about the “glaring absence of coordinated federal policy leadership directed at augmenting and improving the nation’s direct-care workforce.”

By September 30, the Commission must produce a written report about the challenges facing Americans who need long-term care, along with recommendations to improve long-term care services delivery.

Full video of the August 20 hearing is available online.

— by Matthew Ozga

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