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Healthcare panel meets to address workforce challenges

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Texas state Sen. Beverly Powell, D-Fort Worth, and Texas state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, met with a panel of health care professionals to address the workforce shortage for health care workers entering the long-term care profession on Jan. 22.

The James L. West Center for Dementia Care arranged for and hosted the lunch meeting that was moderated by Alyse Meyer, vice president of Advocacy for LeadingAge Texas, a trade association that advocates for not-for-profit aging service providers in Texas.

Among the attendees were representatives from Powell’s office, LeadingAge Texas, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, Trinity Terrace and Christian Care Senior Living.

The key discussion focused on workforce development and the three-pronged issue that deals with health care, workforce solutions and education. To begin to fill the workforce pipeline, the West Center launched a Dementia-Enhanced CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) program earlier this month.

The West Center has been focused on the workforce development issue for some time now and has arrived at some creative solutions.

“We are expanding our CNA program this fall to partner with Fort Worth ISD’s students in their new early-college health care school,” said James L. West Center CEO Cheryl Harding. “The West Center is the district’s official clinical partner. The curriculum will begin with training in the freshman year and every student will have achieved dementia-enhanced CNA certification by their senior year.”

LeadingAge Texas’ Meyer, said, “It was important to include Sen. Powell and Rep. Klick because they care deeply about this issue and the impact it has on aging Texans. Last session, they collaborated on legislation that would have created a student loan repayment assistance program for nurses working in long term care. Their ongoing commitment to this issue is invaluable.”

Powell cited strong philosophical interest in the bill but said a tight budget led to its ultimate defeat.

“This is an altruistic vocation for people who work hard. We’re here to ensure that the quality of health care that we get for our elderly and those who are in long-term care situations should be everything that it should be. We also want to make it easy for healthcare providers to get the training they need in an affordable way that allows them to maintain a good quality of life.”

Klick emphasized the ongoing shortage of nurses.

“When I entered nursing almost 40 years ago, we had shortages, and those shortages have continued. But the one area where we’ve had the greatest need has been in long-term care, caring for our vulnerable seniors. We’re here today at this roundtable to discuss solutions, to make sure there are folks out there to care for our seniors and folks in long-term care,” Klick said.

The panel discussed potential funding mechanisms and potential ways to enhance tuition reimbursements that would lead to decreased turnover and increased quality of care. Together, the group will partner to provide input for legislation for the upcoming 87th session. Proposed bills are drafted in the non-legislative periods to be prepared for the actual session.

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