Long-Term Care Industry Growing, But Workforce Departures Outpacing New Hires

UCSF Report Recommends Investment in Training and Education to Increase Recruitment, Retention

The long-term care (LTC) industry expects substantial growth in employment opportunities to meet growing health care demand. But, the rate of exit from long-term care jobs is outpacing the rate of entry, according to a new report issued by the UCSF Health Workforce Research Center on Long-Term Care (HWRC).

Researchers recommend future investment in training and education to increase recruitment and retention of workers to meet the burgeoning demand from aging Baby Boomers.

The long-term care industry experienced substantial job growth in the past decade, a trend that will continue into the next decade and beyond, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the HWRC report “Entry and Exit of Workers in Long-Term Care,” LTC employs a high share of low-skilled workers, and the rate of leaving LTC jobs is now outpacing the rate of entry into the industry.                                                                                                                     

In anticipation of growing demand for LTC from aging Baby Boomers, workforce planners are concerned about ensuring an adequate pipeline of appropriately trained workers for LTC jobs.

“This is especially concerning, as most people who left the LTC workforce – particularly those with lower skill levels – found themselves unemployed or out of the labor force entirely, and they also reported higher rates of work disability and poverty,” said study co-author Bianca Frogner, PhD, of the University of Washington School of Medicine.

“We don’t know whether the elevated rate of transition for LTC workers provides opportunities to obtain higher-paying jobs or develop new skills, or if they increase the likelihood that these workers will live in poverty,” said co-author Joanne Spetz, PhD, professor in the UCSF Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies and HWRC director.

Among the report’s findings are that as of 2013, nearly all LTC workers were women, and minorities represented about 40 percent of the workforce, which was higher than the national average of 21 percent of the overall U.S. labor force.

The authors propose that future research explore the longer-term employment paths of LTC workers and recommend policymakers consider investments in education and training to ensure an adequately trained workforce that remains in the LTC industry.

The report was funded by the U.S. National Center for Health Workforce Analysis, a program of the Health Resources and Services Administration. This is the second in a series of reports to be issued by the HWRC, which was created to examine the supply, demand, distribution and capacity of the health care workforce to meet the needs of older adults and persons with disabilities.

UCSF is the nation's leading university exclusively focused on health. Now celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding as a medical college, UCSF is dedicated to transforming health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with world-renowned programs in the biological sciences, a preeminent biomedical research enterprise and two top-tier hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital San Francisco.

The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Founded in 1946, the University of Washington School of Medicine is a regional resource for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho – the WWAMI states. It is recognized for excellence in training primary-care physicians and for advancing medical knowledge through scientific research. UW School of Medicine is consistently recognized as one of the nation's top providers of instruction. In 2013, U.S. News & World Report ranked UW No. 1 in the areas of primary care, family medicine and rural medicine.