Hospice and home health provider LHC Group (NASDAQ: LHCG) will provide $20 million in funding during the next 10 years to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions. The company is hoping to stem the tide of ongoing staffing shortages that are expected to worsen in coming years.
The investment is expected to finance in-person and virtual degree programs beginning in the nursing school. In time these dollars will be used to support more than 55 degree programs in each of the university’s schools. This will include post-acute care certifications at the graduate level.
“This is a strategic investment in our future, particularly that of our LHC Group family of health care providers – our greatest asset and most important resource,” said Keith Myers, LHC Group chairman and CEO. “Advancing employee education is one of the strongest and most strategic differentiators for employee recruitment and retention.”
LHC Group employees will be able to take courses at the university at a reduced cost, and the donation opens up adjunct professorship opportunities for the company’s personnel, according to Myers.
More patients than ever are seeking hospice and palliative care, and the industry may not have enough trained clinicians to take care of them. More than 35% of hospice leaders surveyed by Hospice News and Homecare Homebase earlier this year cited staffing shortages as a top concern for their organizations, along with regaining access to patients in facilities.
Currently the United States has 13.35 hospice and palliative care specialists for every 100,000 adults 65 and older. An April 2018 study estimated that by 2040 the patient population will need 10,640 to 24,000 specialists; supply is expected to range between 8,100 and 19,000.
Hospice and palliative care providers are already seeing shortages in other disciplines, including chaplains, nurses, and social workers. As far back as 2008, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service (CMS) began allowing hospice providers to use contracted nursing staff because not enough nurses were available to fill permanent positions.
LHC Group itself has its eyes fixed on revamping recruitment and retention strategies during 2021. LHC Group is taking a regional approach to recruitment across each of its service lines. Each service, such as home health or hospice, has dedicated hiring teams that are focused on specific geographic areas.
“Unfortunately, we’re dealing with a national shortage of nurses across all sectors of the healthcare industry,” Myers said. “We believe this [$20 million investment] is an innovative and forward-thinking way for our company to step up and help address this need.”