Experienced clinician asks Governor to sign HB 1239 into law
A recent Tallahassee Democrat guest column by a senior clinician with more than 50 years of health care experience highlights the changing needs of today’s nursing center residents and how they will receive even more focused and individualized, quality care as a result of HB 1239. As the bill awaits the Governor’s signature, Ms. Norris outlines how it will also help facilities attract and encourage specialized caregivers, providing another solution to address the long term care staffing shortages.
Bill Ensures Nursing Center Residents Receive the Care They Deserve
Tallahassee Democrat | Column
By Peggy Norris
Right now, about 71,000 Floridians are in long-term care facilities – our parents, our grandparents, and people with disabilities. This growing population will only continue to expand – by 2030, more than 1 in 4 Floridians will be 65 or older. These current and future vulnerable Floridians will rely on us to ensure that they receive the person-centered, individualized care they need.
The Florida Legislature wisely passed legislation this session prioritizing the needs and interests of our nursing center residents. So many of us who work in long-term care facilities thank our lawmakers for prioritizing residents. The bill (HB 1239) is now on its way to the Governor’s desk – and his signature will help ensure that nursing center residents are at the center of care.
Today’s nursing center population presents a diverse array of health care needs. These needs weren’t as prevalent when nursing home minimum staffing requirements were last updated more than two decades ago, so they weren’t fully considered or included. But many of today’s residents face additional, more complex clinical challenges, and the legislation takes this into account.
Many of our residents have breathing conditions, are struggling with addictions or trauma, or are having a hard time relearning functional skills. These vulnerable individuals need specialized staffing to meet these needs – for example, respiratory therapists, mental health counselors, and occupational therapists. HB 1239 would allow the work of those specialized caregivers, many of whom already are working in Florida long term care, to count towards satisfying the minimum staffing requirements and increase the individualized care our residents need and deserve.
As a clinician working in a long-term care facility, I have seen firsthand the challenges current staff face while caring for residents. While our Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and licensed nurses provide exceptional care to meet day-to-day needs, not all of them have the qualifications to provide mental health counseling, respiratory therapy, and other more specialized care. In order to properly provide this kind of care, our facilities need to attract and encourage specialized caregivers. HB 1239 would help provide our residents with just that.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic worsened staffing needs in all Florida nursing centers, along with all other centers nationwide, to the point where now 92% of our state’s nursing centers have reported self-imposed admission and other restrictions due to staffing challenges. By allowing specialized, skilled caregivers to join forces with CNAs and licensed nurses, and have their work recognized, Florida can alleviate these restrictions while ensuring comprehensive care for our state’s elderly and people with disabilities.
By signing this bill into law, Governor DeSantis can ensure that Florida’s most vulnerable residents receive even more focused and individualized, quality care they deserve – and that our long-term care staff can receive the much-needed help to ease the staffing crisis.
Peggy Norris, RN CDP, is a clinical consulting with Signature HealthCARE which operates 20 skilled nursing facilities in Florida. She can be reached at [email protected].
ABOUT THE FLORIDA HEALTH CARE ASSOCIATION
The Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) is a federation that serves nearly 1,000 members and represents more than 500 long-term care facilities that provide skilled nursing, post-acute and subacute care, short-term rehab, assisted living, and other services to the elderly and individuals with disabilities in Florida. The mission of FHCA is to advance the quality of services, image, professional development, and financial stability of its members. As Florida’s first and largest advocacy organization for long-term care providers and the elderly they serve, the Association has worked diligently since 1954 to assist its members with continuously improving quality of care and quality of life for the state’s growing elder care population. For more information about the Florida Health Care Association, visit http://www.fhca.org.