Building clinical ranks through education, training, and tuition reimbursement programs is an increasingly common thread that hospices incorporate into their recruitment and retention initiatives.
Investing in these education and career development programs could pay off big in terms of hiring and retaining staff, says Phillip Heath, chairman of the board of New Jersey-based Samaritan Life Enhancing Care. Heath will become the organization’s CEO effective October 1.
“Whether a hospice establishes some sort of bond, tuition reimbursement, or training program, that creates an opportunity for people to continue to grow and learn with you,” Heath told Hospice News. “It’s investing in people who, in turn, will give you their time for sustainable services. As demand grows, we know we will need more resources from different avenues, with the bulk needed for our operations.
Creating Career Paths for Palliative Care Clinicians
Clinical workforce shortages in palliative and palliative care are among the biggest threats to patient access, according to some providers. The demand for end-of-life and critical illness care exceeds the supply of qualified clinicians, leading to capacity constraints, accelerated industry consolidation and the complete closure of some hospices.
More and more providers are employing “build your own” incentive tactics that include a range of tuition, training, and scholarship reimbursement programs aimed at recruiting and retaining clinicians from all walks of life.
Samaritan launched its first hospice and palliative care fellowship program in 2013 in conjunction with the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine. The program has been put on hold for the past few years as the organization has refined its scope. With its upcoming relaunch, the program will be offered to a wider range of physicians in other health care disciplines.
The program has gained traction in recruiting and retaining clinical staff, and the organization will continue to invest in fellowships and other long-term training programs, according to Heath.
“One of our first fellows is still working at Samaritan as a practitioner,” Heath said. “We continue to grow our practice as palliative and palliative medical partners through our fellowship program. It is important that individuals grow and develop in the profession and see opportunities for expansion in the workforce.
Samaritan also created and operates its Institute for Education, Research and Innovation, a program dedicated to cultivating hospice and palliative care talent development and raising public awareness of career opportunities in the field. . The institute not only trains employees, but also educates the community about end-of-life care and critical illness, according to Heath.
Other providers have also sought to expand their clinical workforce.
Among these is the Las Vegas-based Nathan Adelson Hospice, which developed its hospice and palliative care fellowship about seven years ago. According to Nathan Adelson Hospice CEO and President Karen Rubel, the fellowship has been “greatly successful” in bringing more physicians into these specialties.
Similar to Samaritan, the fellowship program was initially rolled out for physicians in osteopathic medicine, but has since opened up to physicians with other professional backgrounds.
This expansion was largely due to growing recruiting and retention challenges in a competitive environment, Rubel said.
“We saw retention as increasingly difficult, competing with other organizations for doctors, nurses, CNAs and other clinicians,” Rubel told Hospice News. “There is a shortage of doctors trained in palliative and palliative care across the country. This program certainly helps our physician groups grow. This is our way of being able to increase this workforce and train interested doctors. We have had great success with some physicians remaining after graduation and the end of the fellowship program.
The one-year program accepts two or three fellows each year, who each choose a specialty area within palliative care and palliative care (such as pediatrics or veteran populations).
Other hospices are also increasing opportunities for continuing education and career development.
Hospice of Southern Maine recently launched a tuition reimbursement program that supports healthcare workers interested in becoming licensed as a registered nurse or certified practical nurse.
The program was developed in response to a “critical shortage” of palliative care nursing professionals across the state that is expected to reach a tipping point in the next three years, according to Hospice of Southern Maine CEO Daryl Cady.
“Maine will face a shortage of 3,200 registered nurses in the state by 2025,” Cady Hospice News wrote in an email. “We hope that through this program we can encourage more people to gain experience while continuing their education, so that they can quickly assimilate into these high-demand professions and help meet the demand and the growing need for palliative care. .”
The cost of running these educational programs can be high for hospices.
For example, the Hospice of Southern Maine reimbursement program not only covers tuition, but also the cost of books, lab fees, and other educational expenses. Each employee receives a maximum of $5,250 per calendar year of study.
The program also includes a pathway to employment at the hospice. According to Cady, students interested in working at the hospice can “earn to learn” at a rate of $19/hour while they attend classes and clinics and be “workforce ready” after graduation. graduation.
Other costs include compensation for directors, coordinators and teaching staff of the scholarship program, as well as the cost of scholarship salaries, Rubel added. Nathan Adelson Hospice sets a target amount each year in its annual budget process to continue offering the scholarship program.
The sustainability of scholarship and continuing education programs often depends on philanthropic support. The philanthropic and fundraising arms of Nathan Adelson Hospice, Hospice of Southern Maine and Samaritan each play an important role in keeping these programs afloat, leaders told Hospice News.
“We spend significant time and financial effort on talent recruitment, retention and development programs, investing resources in these areas that will continue to grow,” Heath said. “We have supported these programs for many years through generous donor support and through our own operating budget.
Other ways to maintain educational opportunities include developing partnerships or scholarship funds with local universities and community educational institutions, Heath added.
There is some hope that in the long run, payers will factor in labor-strengthening costs when determining reimbursement rates, Heath told Hospice News.
Sowing the seeds of sustainable growth
Suppliers who have pursued scholarship and education incentive programs have high hopes for sustainable, long-term workforce growth.
In addition to ensuring sufficient numbers in their ranks, hospices can leverage the training their employees receive to develop diverse service lines. According to Heath, scholarship and education programs that provide clinicians with a range of news can foster expansion with the ability to “broaden the spectrum” of care.
These programs can also plant the roots of interdisciplinary collaboration within a hospice’s community of care, according to Rubel.
“Even if these fellows don’t decide to stay at our hospice, they can work in the community providing palliative care in hospitals or clinics, for example,” Rubel told Hospice News. “They work alongside our clinicians during their rotations, learning as part of the interdisciplinary team. This is to add the human resources needed to manage patient care in the community. Having doctors with the level of familiarity and comfort there really helps with collaboration. »
According to Heath, providing continuing education and training opportunities can also play a key role in leadership succession planning. These programs allow clinicians to grow professionally within hospice and encourage them to progress to leadership as their careers progress, he added.
“These programs are one way to create opportunities for staff to become leaders in the organization,” Heath told Hospice News. “Succession planning is very important as we see the aging of the workforce and the need to invite more people into these opportunities. We look to the years to come and beyond to ensure that individuals join us and want to stay, grow and develop in their profession and also lead the development of others.