news Can immigrants fill the shortage of long-term care workers?

When Margaret Nellette arrived in the United States from Haiti, she sought safety and a fresh start.

A former human rights activist, Nellet saw his life in danger amidst the political turmoil following the military coup that overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991. At the age of 29, Nellet moved to Port-au-Prince with his sister. I left two young children with me and came to Miami.A few years later, I never returned home on a three-month visa. In time, she was granted political asylum.

She eventually studied to become a nursing assistant, passed a certification exam, and got a job at a nursing home. Her job was hard and she didn’t pay well, but “as an immigrant, it’s a job that’s open to you,” she said.

Related: Florida nursing homes want more workers from abroad amid staff shortages

Years later her family joined her, but her children did not want to follow her career path. , why are you doing that?” Neret said. Her daughter thought the job was underpaid and too physical.

After many years, Nerette, now 57, quit her nursing home job to work locally in Florida for the union SEIU1199, which represents more than 25,000 health care workers. As the local vice president of long-term care, she is keenly aware of the staffing challenges that have plagued the industry for decades, exacerbated as baby boomers age and push the boundaries of long-term care services. do.

The United States faces a crisis of unfilled vacancies, high turnover, and jeopardizing the safety of frail seniors. Low-paying, physically demanding long-term care jobs are hard to sell in a tight labor market with plenty of job options. Experts say opening avenues for care workers to migrate would help, but policy makers are unmoved.

According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in healthcare support jobs is expected to increase by 1.3 million over the decade to 2031, a growth rate of nearly 18%, outpacing all other major occupations. outperforms the group. These direct care workers include various types of nurses, home health care aides, physical and occupational therapy assistants, and others.

Certified nursing assistants, who assist with routine tasks such as bathing, dressing, and eating, make up the largest percentage of workers in nursing homes. In the decade to 2029, the United States will need to fill nearly 562,000 nursing assistant jobs, according to an extensive report on nursing home quality released last year by the National Academy of Sciences, Academy of Engineering and Medicine.

Related: Florida nursing home workers say they don’t get minimum wage

But as the U.S. population ages, fewer workers will be available to fill vacancies in nursing homes, nursing homes, and private homes. While the number of adults aged 65 and over will nearly double between 2016 and 2060 to 94.7 million, an analysis of census data by PHI, an older and older research and advocacy organization, shows The number of adults of age increases only by 15%. Persons with disabilities conducting labor force surveys.

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Immigration can play a key role in bridging these gaps, experts say. Already, about one in four direct care workers is foreign-born, according to her PHI analysis in 2018.

“We believe immigrants are critical to the future of this workforce and the long-term care industry,” said Robert Espinoza, executive vice president of policy at PHI. we are thinking.”

Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have long struggled to retain adequate staff. The problem worsened dramatically during the pandemic when these facilities became hotbeds for covid-19 infections and deaths. Over 200,000 residents and staff died in the first two years of the pandemic. American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.

Related: Data Shows Florida Nursing Schools Continue to Fall in Acceptance Rates

Immigration policies aimed at identifying foreign workers to fill care positions could help ease the burden. But unlike other countries facing similar caregiving challenges, the United States generally does not make attracting direct care workers from abroad a priority.

“Immigration policy is long-term care policy,” said David Grabowski, a health policy professor at Harvard Medical School whose research has focused on the economics of aging and long-term care. “If we really want to encourage a strong workforce, we need to make immigration more accessible to individuals.” Most of the nearly one million immigrants to the United States each year are family members of citizens, but some are highly skilled. Some people enter the country on work visas for jobs that require advanced skills.

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden proposed comprehensive immigration reform that would pave the way for citizenship for undocumented workers and, among other things, revise rules for employment-based visas, but it went nowhere. rice field.

“There has not been much interest or political will to increase immigration opportunities for mid- to low-level care assistants, such as home health care assistants, personal care assistants, and certified nursing assistants.” President of Policy and Director of Immigration Policy at a Niskanen Center.

The Biden administration did not respond to a request for comment.

Some local and regional organizations are also working to link immigration and health care jobs. The Ascentria Care Alliance provides social services, refugee resettlement and long-term care services in five counties of England. With state and private philanthropic funding, the organization has begun helping refugees from Ukraine, Haiti, Venezuela and Afghanistan obtain the support services they need (language, housing, childcare). Facilities of care facilities and healthcare partners.

According to Angela Bovill, president and CEO of Worcester, Massachusetts-based Ascentria, the group has long helped refugees resettle and find jobs in traditional settings such as warehouses and retail stores. I was. “Now we are looking at what it takes to get them into the medical profession,” she said.

The Alliance is applying to the Department of Labor for a grant to expand the program. “If done well, it will create pathways and pipelines for the fastest transition from immigrants to skilled health workers,” said Bobile.

Some long-term care experts say the United States cannot afford to delay implementing policies that appeal to immigrants.

Howard Gleckman, Senior Fellow, Urban Institute, said:

Canada, for example, is fully committed to immigration. In 2022, we will welcome her more than 430,000 new permanent residents, a record number. Immigrants account for nearly 100% of Canada’s workforce growth and by 2036 immigrants are expected to make up 30% of the population, the government said. In the United States, immigrants make up about 14% of the population, according to an analysis of census data by the Migration Policy Institute. Canada’s Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot is designed to identify and recruit refugees with the skills Canadian employers need. In January, recruiters offered jobs to 65 continuous care assistants in Nova Scotia after visiting refugee camps in Kenya.

A December survey of 500 nursing homes in the United States said more than half were forced to turn away new residents due to staffing shortages.

Industry representatives say these staffing challenges are likely to be compounded by the increasing number of closed facilities, units or wings.

Experts say government mandates alone won’t solve long-standing problems of inadequate training, pay, benefits, or career advancement.

“Young people aren’t going to clean 10 to 15 patients for $15 an hour,” says Nerette. “They go to McDonald’s. You have to face that reality and make a plan.”

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism on health issues. KHN is one of his three major operational programs in the United States, along with policy analysis and polling KFFMore (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a donated non-profit organization that provides information on health issues to the public.

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