Help Wanted

Across the nation, health care workers are in demand — and a recent report predicts an ongoing shortage will only worsen by 2025.

The study by Mercer, a global health care staffing consultant, concludes that as America's population continues to age, the nation will need to hire 2.3 million new health care workers by 2025 to provide adequate care.

Home health aides and nurses may be the hardest to find, according to Mercer, which foresees a shortage of 446,300 home health aides and a combined shortfall of nearly 125,000 nursing assistants and nurse practitioners by 2025.

Locally, health care providers already are feeling the pinch.

Susie Tack Beardsley, chief administrative officer of Quality Life Services — which owns Golden Hill Nursing Home in New Castle — attributes the shortage to aging population, growth of the healthcare industry in general and possibly to the expanded job market for women.

"It used to be nursing was the way to go if you were a woman who wanted a career," Beardsley said, "but women have so many more options now, which is a wonderful thing."

Beardsley sees supply of those in licensed healthcare positions "struggling to meet demand" and has heard of nursing schools having problems finding enough qualified instructors.

Quality Life Services has its own training program for certified nurses' assistants, or CNAs, which helps fill positions in its 11 nursing homes, seven personal care facilities and home health care agency, all located in a 13-county area of Western Pennsylvania.

Within the past two years, since becoming part of the UPMC system, the Jameson Hospital School of Nursing has partnered with Westminster College, allowing nursing students to follow a four-year bachelor of science in nursing track or the traditional registered nurse diploma track and graduate in only 16 months.

"Having the choice of the RN diploma and BSN tracks creates more, modern options to prepare even more future nurses for our region," said Don Owrey, president of UPMC Jameson in New Castle and UPMC Horizon with campuses in Farrell and Grove City. “We are focused to grow our school of nursing program with the ultimate goal of fueling the future nurse pipeline for our region.

"We expect to have a class of 55 students this year, and we hope to expand our class sizes even larger in future years. That’s 55 new nurses entering the workforce, each year, who will staff our region’s hospitals, senior living facilities, physician offices, and provide vital home health and in-home hospice and palliative care for our aging population.”

At Home Helpers of New Castle, vice president and co-owner Amy DeSanti wouldn't call her current workforce of 72 "older," but she does call finding qualified workers the agency's "biggest challenge. It's probably what we spend most of our time on."

The agency, she says, is "hiring all the time. We never have quite enough caregivers." She is concerned that things will get worse as there will be more older people needing care.

She would welcome some of those Baby Boomers who are retiring to think about home health care as a second career, or part-time job.

"We would welcome those who are a little older to apply," DeSanti said. "All of the retirements could actually be beneficial to us, especially if those retirees are looking for an active, productive second career helping others. Even those in their 40s and 50s are in the generations that are more committed to their work."

Home Instead Senior Care, which serves Lawrence and Mercer Counties, has about 115 employees who are "a little bit of everything" in terms of age, according to Mike Neupauer, franchise owner and president. Some are older and went into home health care as second career.

Still, Neupauer said, "There's a shortage already. The demand far outweighs the supply of good, qualified caregivers." He would like to expand to 150 employees by the end of the year.

Renee Gendreau is a lifestyles reporter at the New Castle News. Email her at rgendreau@ncnewsonline.com.

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