SPI nursing career pathway team discusses launching LPN program
Employers are seeing the most intense nursing shortage in history for the health care sector.
Health care organizations, nursing homes, medical practices and other facilities in New Hampshire are competing with Massachusetts and each other to attract qualified workers. The shortage of licensed practical nurses is of particular concern.
“We are at a crisis of resources,” said Linda Goldthwaite, a registered nurse and licensed nursing home administrator at Aurora Senior Living in Derry and a health care champion for the New Hampshire Sector Partnerships Initiative (SPI). “Part of the solution is to provide more opportunities for all people with different needs who are willing to take less traditional routes toward gaining the necessary workforce skills.”
NH SPI is actively addressing this issue, which was the focus of a recent meeting of local health care experts. The team discussed solutions, including creating training programs and an apprenticeship program for people to become certified and licensed as nurses.
The role of LPNs
Licensed practical nurses, or LPNs, are nurses who care for people who are sick, injured, convalescent, or disabled. They fill important gaps in providing patient care, and are especially important in situations where registered nurses, or RNs, are not present. Licensed nursing assistants, or LNAs, are also experiencing challenges: each month, about 200 licensed LNAs in New Hampshire allow their licenses to lapse for a variety of reasons.
Compounding the issue, RNs are also hard to come by, as many are planning to retire in the coming years. LPNs offer nursing home facilities an affordable and highly qualified option. LPN training takes about one year to complete and only two LPN training programs currently exist in New Hampshire.
Typically, a nursing student satisfies many of the qualifications required to be an LPN in the course of their study of pursuing a Bachelor or Master’s degree in Nursing. Many health care organizations say they would support a formal LPN to RN training program, with students serving as LPNs at health care facilities as part of their degree through an apprenticeship or other paid on-the-job training arrangements.
By partnering with The Community College System of New Hampshire and its seven campuses across the state, the SPI team is exploring an employer-driven and regimented LPN program. The formal apprenticeship or on-the-job training portion could be tailored to specific health care employer need while offering a competitive salary with progressive pay increases as a student’s skills develop.
Addressing instructor shortage
That state’s current registered apprentice program, ApprenticeshipNH, works directly with health care sector employers to create programs tailored to their needs and budgets, at no cost to employers or apprentices. An apprenticeship approach to LPN training could also take pressure off of instructors, another area where the health care sector is experiencing a talent shortage. Part of the process of developing an internship through ApprenticeshipNH, which is funded by a federal workforce grant, involves identifying and recruiting instructors to meet program demand in advance.
Other ideas to enhance and improve LPN training include education subsidies and offering credits to high school students through CTEs, allowing room for an apprenticeship during their senior year.
The solutions-oriented session, which took place on June 11, was part of a regular meeting for advisors, stakeholders, and champions in the health care sector to work together and identify strategies to strengthen the workforce. The team will continue its work by bringing the issue and potential solution to CCSNH campus presidents for further input, and by researching options to tailor and submit the program to the state board of nursing.
The SPI health care sector team meets the Second Monday of each month. Industry representatives are welcome to share input and feedback by connecting with Roxie Severance, sector advisor for New Hampshire’s health care industry at 603.733.6072 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
All of the solutions under consideration by SPI and the health care team require an industry-wide, collaborative approach.
It is with sincere gratitude to the following facilities and their dedicated health care industry professionals for offering input, advice, and expertise as the sector works on solving workforce challenges together:
- New Hampshire Hospital Association
- New Hampshire Red Cross
- Littleton Regional Healthcare
- Goldenview Health Care Center
- Northeast Delta Dental
- Community College System of New Hampshire
- Home Health & Hospice Care
- Applewood Center
- Cedarcrest Center
- Merrimack County Nursing Home
- Catholic Charities New Hampshire
- NH Board of Nursing
- Foundation for Healthy Communities
- The Edgewood Centre
- Maplewood of Cheshire County
- Edgewood Centre
- Dartmouth Hitchcock
- New Hampshire Health Care Association
- NH Veterans Home
- Pleasant View Center – Genesis Healthcare
- St. Joseph Hospital – a member of Covenant Health
- LRG Healthcare
- ELMI – New Hampshire Employment Security
- Northeast Rehab Hospital Network
- Aurora Senior Living of Derry
- NH Office of Business & Economic Affairs
- The U.S. Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeships
Visit nhsectorpartners.org to learn more about NH SPI.