New mandate creates a dire situation for Florida’s nursing homes | Opinion

Last month, the Biden Administration announced a new nursing home staffing mandate that requires most nursing homes to provide an average of at least 3.48 hours of daily care per resident, along with other staffing requirements. This is great news for nursing home residents, but it immediately worsens our state's existing healthcare workforce shortage.

Currently, only 60 percent of nursing homes operate at the mandate’s required hours of daily care. As a result, nursing homes in Florida will have to hire thousands of nurses and aides over the next two years to adhere to the new staffing requirement.

The mandate also creates new financial challenges for nursing homes. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) estimated that the new staffing requirements will cost $6 billion annually but omit payments from Medicare or Medicaid. Nursing homes will have to fund additional wages for the new nurses, requiring them to increase funding or revenue sources wherever possible.

Jodi Jackson is the Community Engagement Coordinator for Dwyer Workforce Development, Merritt Island
Jodi Jackson is the Community Engagement Coordinator for Dwyer Workforce Development, Merritt Island

Our nursing homes are already doing their best to hire new nurses and survive the financial challenges caused by the pandemic. Unfortunately, the supply of certified nurses has not met the demand and this staffing mandate introduces new funding challenges.

Florida has faced healthcare workforce shortages for years, and the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these shortages. A post-pandemic study found that more than six Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) leave the profession for every CNA certified in Florida. This trend will result in a shortage of nearly 60,000 nurses by 2035.

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The shortage of healthcare professionals is especially dire for Florida due to our large senior population. With residents aged 65 or older making up 20 percent of our population, Florida is home to the nation's highest percentage of senior residents. By 2030, seniors will account for almost a third of the state’s population. Florida must act now to train healthcare professionals to address the workforce shortage and prepare for the influx of seniors in the future.

Luckily, a national workforce program with a unique solution now offers its services in Brevard County. Dwyer Workforce Development recently partnered with CareerSource Brevard to provide training, job placement support, need-based wraparound services, and person-centered case management for job seekers who lack opportunity. Our holistic and individualized approach has led to a high certification rate and an 86 percent employment placement rate for our scholars, helping them overcome barriers and start successful healthcare careers.

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Since Dwyer Workforce Development began offering our services in Brevard County in 2023, we have trained or are in the process of training over 50 local candidates to become healthcare professionals in the county. This first year of our program is just the start, and we look forward to expanding our training in Brevard County and beyond.

Our communities must continue to promote programs that prepare aspiring nurses for success. Now is the time for policymakers, educators, and healthcare leaders to unite and provide comprehensive support for job seekers, while ensuring the well-being and dignity of Florida's senior population.

Jodi Jackson is the Community Engagement Coordinator for Dwyer Workforce Development, Merritt Island

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Nursing home mandate means Florida has to hire thousands of nurses