The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devasting impact on the health and livelihoods of people in every community. The magnitude of the impact will take years to assess and will invite public agencies, legislative committees, the business community and professional associations at all levels. Questions will target a range of problem areas that will continue with calls for corrective actions to assure communities are better prepared in the likely event they’re faced with another pandemic.
One of the priority areas will be the unforgiving challenges that are confronted by caregivers in hospitals, long term care providers and frontline workers. Key questions will focus on whether the needed workforce was available, trained and prepared to address the array of needs confronted by providers and the thousands of individuals and families who are calling out for care. Many will ask what new pro-active investments are required now? What changes are called for? Where should communities look for leadership?
While it is well documented there were “pre-COVID19” shortfalls in the workforce of doctors and nurses, the pandemic has especially underscored the seriousness of the long standing critical gap in the supply of trained direct services workers. These are the Certified Nursing Assistants, Geriatric Nursing Assistants, medical assistants and home care workers who make up 60% of the long ter care workforce. The human scale of this shortfall has long been felt in very personal and professional ways throughout every community.
Prior to the outbreak of the virus, the shortfall of the direct services workforce was at a crisis level. A 2018 study conducted by the PHI, a New York based research firm, found in Maryland there was a workforce gap of 40%, and for the District of Columbia, 35% more workers were needed.
To address this workforce crisis, the Collaborative was formed. It has come together as a network of organizations and individuals to build and sustain a well-trained frontline direct services workforce throughout the Maryland region. In so doing, it prioritizes the principles of diversity, advances knowledge that draws upon current and previous training and development initiatives. The Collaborative has set is mission and vison to pro-actively elevate attention to the critical issues impeding the availability of the needed support services through education, training, policy reform and providing leadership in the design and implementation of new program initiatives.