Training California's Direct-Care Workforce of Tomorrow

By Bezaitis, Athan G.; Ballesteros, Victoria R. | Aging Today, March/April 2011 | Go to article overview

Training California's Direct-Care Workforce of Tomorrow


Bezaitis, Athan G., Ballesteros, Victoria R., Aging Today


California is home to more than 150,000 certified nursing assistants and home healtii aides who provide paid care and support for older adults and persons with disabilities. These critical laborers, a skilled infantry of professional caregivers, make up approximately 30% of the state's direct-care workforce and are employed in nursing homes, hospitals, clinics, home healdi and healtìi welfare agencies. These fully trained and licensed workers provide vital daily care (including assistance with bathing, dressing, eating and medication management) that is a lifeline for those who depend upon their services.

Over the next few decades as the aging tsunami peaks, researchers predict a major shortage of these workers. Challenges exist to the recruitment and retention of home health aides and certified nursing assistants, and their most significant labor pool - women of color of ages 25 to 54 - is declining.

Research from surveys and focus groups of direct-care workers shows the lack of adequate training as both a concern and a factor that influences their decisions to stay in the field. To help address mis need, The SCAN Foundation supported the development of five continuing education courses for California-state-certified nursing assistants and home health aides.

"A highly trained direct-care workforce is critical in allowing those with functional impairments to live with dignity and independence, in me environment of their choice," said Dr. Bruce Chernof, president and CEO of The SCAN Foundation. "We envision mese curricula leading to improved job satisfaction, while addressing the need to help train, retain and expand this vital workforce in California."

Following their initial launch in March, the five programs will be rolled out over the next few months and available via download for free on The SCAN Foundation's website (www. TheSCANFoundation.org). The courses are based on established adult learning principles, and cover themes such as understanding and responding to behaviors of dementia; strengthening communication and problem-solving; end-of-life care; medication and falls; building partnerships with family caregivers; and pain management. They are divided into modules, which include detailed teaching guides for course instructors, and each curriculum includes PowerPoint presentations, handouts for participants, case studies and videos.

COPING WITH END-OF-LIFE CARE

San Diego Hospice and The Institute for Palliative Medicine developed the "Care at the End of Life" course, a series of three modules that are specifically designed for use in a long-term-care setting. Available in both instructor-led and Web-based formats, courses can be delivered in 15- to 20-minute sessions.

The first module focuses on helping workers understand patient and family choices as the time of death nears, w.ith particular emphasis on understanding cultural differences. The second module trains workers on how to engage family members by developing coping mechanisms during this often difficult time.

"Many times families have difficulty knowing their role with their loved one when [he or she] is unresponsive," said Paula McMenamin, clinical field instructor at The Institute. "Participants will learn communication strategies and ways to support families during this transition through [culturally competent] conversations."

The third module describes the most effective methods for dealing wim death and grief as a process. …

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