Efforts To Curb Rural Senior Care Shortages Have Twin Cities Roots

A partnership between Ecumen and one of the state’s higher education systems wants to add youth to senior care to help jumpstart hiring in the field.

Efforts To Curb Rural Senior Care Shortages Have Twin Cities Roots
A new workforce development initiative is taking shape in Minnesota to address the growing gap between demand for rural senior care and the supply of caregivers available to help.
Called the Ecumen Scholars program, it brings the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system together with Ecumen, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit senior housing and services organization, through a $1.9 million grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation.
“Ecumen knew that we had a workforce shortage in our communities,” said Judy Blaseg, vice president of philanthropy at Ecumen. “Hiring qualified staff is hard to do in rural Minnesota, and part of that is because it’s hard to get [the hands-on medical training that is] required to work in senior care facilities.”
The grant allows MnSCU institutions to work hand-in-hand with Ecumen’s senior care facilities to offer clinical rotation hours while exposing students and recent graduates to the field. Money will also go to funding summer fellowships, school-work opportunities, and “scrub camps” that expose high school students to healthcare.
The creation of a public-private partnership to tackle a public health issue is a growing trend, where Blaseg says many “look to foundations when we have a problem that needs fixing.”
Similar efforts to address rural care—including elderly care—are underway in the Upper Midwest. The New York-based Helmsley Charitable Trust launched a program in 2009 to improve outcomes by developing and retaining the rural healthcare workforce, improve delivery of care and disseminate policy on the issue.
Senior care is not the only part of the medical field that faces looming shortages. The Minnesota Hospital Association reported in July that there will be a shortfall of 850 primary care physicians throughout the state by 2024.
“Many of our hospitals, especially those in greater Minnesota, already have difficulty attracting physicians,” Minnesota Hospital Association president and CEO Lawrence J. Massa said in a statement. 
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