US Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) And Lisa Murkowski (R-Ark.) Have reintroduced a bill to strengthen the palliative care workforce. The Hospice Provider Training Act would allow members of the National Health Service Corps to defer their service for up to a year to pursue additional hospice palliative care training.
Established in 1972, the National Health Service Corps program offers scholarships and loan repayment to primary care providers in eligible disciplines. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) manages the initiative. Rosen and Murkowski, both members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Work and Pensions, originally introduced the bill in 2019.
“Palliative care helps provide comfort, manage pain, and improve overall quality of life, but providers are scarce in Nevada and across the country,” Rosen said. “This important legislation will help fill the health care gap in Nevada caused by our physician shortage by providing primary care providers the opportunity to receive training in palliative care so they can better meet the needs of patients.” in underserved communities. ”
Prior to entering Congress, Rosen cared for aging family members, including her mother. In 2019, she led the creation of the bipartisan Comprehensive Care Caucus. The mission of the caucus is to raise awareness of palliative care, promote its use, improve coordination of care, support caregivers and expand access to palliative care services.
Labor shortages have kept hospice managers from sleeping at night for several years in a row. The increase in revenue from the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the crisis, and some hospice providers and health systems are starting to shut down their programs or sell their operations because they cannot recruit or retain a sufficient number of employees.
“We need creative solutions to expand training opportunities in the type of holistic, person and family-centered services that hospice palliative care can provide,” said Bill Dombi, president of the National Association for Homecare and Hospice. “By making it easier for National Health Service Corp providers to continue training in palliative care, the bill would increase access to this much-needed care in some of the country’s most underserved communities.”
The increase in turnover has affected the industry since the start of the COVID-19 epidemic last year. Just over 20% of healthcare workers have considered leaving the field due to the stress of the pandemic, and 30% have considered reducing their hours, according to a recent study published in the JAMA Network Open.
But the shortage did not start with the epidemic, it has been escalating for years as hospice workers age along with the rest of the population and seek to retire. About 10,000 people in the United States reach retirement age of 65 every day, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The general lack of exposure to palliative or palliative care during clinical training exacerbates problems in recruiting and retaining providers. A 2018 study found that most students in clinical disciplines do not feel ready to provide family care at the end of life.
“This legislation opens the door for primary care providers who wish to train in palliative care, increasing the number of people trained in underserved areas while ensuring that the definition of primary care does not change,” Murkowsi said.
Shortages are expected to worsen over the next 25 years, as research indicates that the supply of skilled palliative and palliative care workers will be outstripped by the demand of a growing population of aging patients.
The country’s supply of palliative and palliative care specialists stands at 13.35 per 100,000 adults aged 65 and over, according to an April 2018 study. Research predicted that by 2040 patients with need for this care would be between 8,100 and 19,000, while the supply of specialists would vary between around 10,640 and 24,000 specialists. Hospices also continue to experience shortages in other disciplines, such as nurses, case managers and direct care workers.
“Given the current implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and the exacerbated labor shortages affecting the community of nonprofit hospice and palliative care providers, this legislation is imperative,” said Tom Koutsoumpas, CEO of the National Partnership for Hospice Innovation (NPHI). .
Other legislative initiatives to address this issue are underway, including the Hospice and Palliative Care Education and Training Act (PCHETA). Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) And Representative Yvette Clarke (DN.Y.) recently called on congressional leaders to adopt PCHETA, which would support the training of doctors and nurses, among other disciplines.
“This predicted workforce shortage is a stark reminder that with our aging population, there is a need to review Medicare policies and determine how we are going to meet the growing demand for person-centered care,” he said. said the President and CEO of the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization, Edo Banach. said about PCHETA.