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Help Wanted: Licensed Nurses

  • Peter LaRoche and Lara Shook cut the ribbon during the Scott-Farrar Home grand re-opening on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Peter LaRoche and Lara Shook cut the ribbon during the Scott-Farrar Home grand re-opening on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Peter LaRoche and Lara Shook cut the ribbon during the Scott-Farrar Home grand re-opening on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Peter LaRoche and Lara Shook cut the ribbon during the Scott-Farrar Home grand re-opening. Staff photo by Ashley Saari



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, November 07, 2016

As the new Scott-Farrar Home closes in on its first month in operation, its assisted and independent living apartments are quickly filling up. But their memory care rooms remain empty – and not for a lack of potential occupants, said CEO Lara Shook, but for the lack of staff to care for them.

Scott-Farrar currently has 35 employees, about 10 of whom are either licensed nursing assistants or medication nursing assistants – the largest section of their staff, which Scott-Farrar is only looking to grow. While the home is currently seeking additional nursing assistant staff, it’s a difficult void to fill for several reasons, said Shook.

“It’s a job that takes compassion and patience. It takes a person with a special personality to do it, because it is emotionally demanding. And pay is part of it,” said Shook. 

The national average yearly salary of a licensed nursing assistant is about $26,000. While ConVal High School offers a LNA program, it’s only available to ConVal students, and there aren’t any other local offerings for certification, said Shook. 

Cathy Gray, who heads the Monadnock Region Healthcare Workforce Group, said that at the start of 2016 there were 46 open nursing positons, out of about 300 total, in the Monadnock region’s nursing facilities and hospitals.

“The problem is really related to the limited pool of applicants, and the low unemployment rate in the state, but also the wage, because we are funded by Medicaid and Medicare,” said Gray, who is also CEO of Cedarcrest Center in Keene. 

Region 14 Applied Technology Center at ConVal High School does have a contract with the Red Cross, which allows for up to eight students a quarter – 32 per year – to take a course to receive an LNA license, according to John Reitnauer, director of the Applied Technology Center. But it’s rare that they have enough student interest to fill all four sections, said Reitnauer. Usually they only run three and this year, there was only enough interest to fill two.

“There may be several reasons for that,” said Reitnauer. “School populations are dropping, or students simply may not be choosing to go into the nursing or medical field.”

The ConVal class is a good oportunity, said Reitnauer, because it allows students to complete a course that would otherwise cost them about $1,200 to complete independantly through the Red Cross. The students do a combination of classroom work and practical and clinical experience through a partnership with RiverMead Lifecare Community in Peterborough. 

It’s rare for students who graduate with their LNA to work full-time at that position, said Reitnauer. Usually they intend to take part-time positions while they attend college with an interest in nursing or another medical professional field. 

“There is such a shortage that they can pretty much pick their days and shifts,” said Reitnauer. “It’s a good opportunity for these kids.”

Ann Nunn, administrator at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Jaffrey, said that they try to offer some incentives to entice young workers, such as offering a per diem rate that doesn’t come with benefits but has a slightly higher starting pay – a trade-off young people in particular are often interested in. They also offer tuition reimbursement if an entry-level health care professional is looking to advance within the company.

A facility like Scott-Farrar does have some advantages when it comes to attracting LNAs and MNAs, however, said Shook. There is a lot of competition for health care providers in the region, with Monadnock Community Hospital and various nursing and retirement homes in the area. Scott-Farrar, which caters to a large independent living community, “tends to be less stressful” than a hospital or a facility providing long-term care, said Shook.

“The slower pace and less demanding workload can be attractive to employees,” she said. 

But even with that incentive, said Shook, they have yet to build up the staff needed to be able to start filling the home’s memory care apartments, despite having several already reserved. Shook said they are still searching for additional LNAs and MNAs, as well as a nursing director, with hopes to be able to start filling memory care apartments before the end of the year.

“It’s difficult, because memory care tends to be very needs- driven, so it’s hard for a family member or loved one not to have an exact date they can move in,” said Shook. “But we also need to be able to do things the right way and have everything in place.”

It’s difficult to find LNAs, said Nunn, not only in the Mondanock region, but across the state and even nationally. The subject of a lack of health care workers has even become a focus of a governor’s commission, which is looking at the shortage of health care workers and what can be done to attract younger workers into health care and provide a reasonable wage.