Los Angeles-based Hospice Home Care recently rolled out a scholarship program for hospice aides in a move towards building career pathways and improving retention.
Two hospice home care aides who have existing relationships with the organization will each receive a $1,000 scholarship to help advance their careers in the field by the end of this year.
The scholarship initiative is intended to allow hospice aides to seek out opportunities and also feel valued for the work they do, according to Sally Winthorpe, a spokesperson for Hospice Home Care.
“The scholarship is a dependable way to assist hospice home care aids in furthering their careers, voicing their stories on the importance [of] what caregiving means to them and emphasize the changes that have occurred in their patients’ lives,” Winthorpe said in a statement. “Los Angeles County needs to hear the voices of those who provide Los Angeles hospice care to the residents of this county as they near the end of life.”
Home hospice aides in the Los Angeles county region who have previously worked with the organization were eligible to apply for the scholarship. Recipients will be announced in December 2023.
Headquartered in Agoura Hills, California, Hospice Home Care’s service region spans 30 cities in the Los Angeles area. The organization provides hospice, home health and palliative care.
Growing demand amid heightened levels of turnover is fueling a need to retain and attract hospice home aides.
Aides in 2022 represented a large percentage of job vacancies in the hospice space at nearly 20%, according to research from Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service (HCS) and the National Association of Home Care & Hospice (NAHC). They also had high turnover rates, reaching 29.84% last year.
As with other health care workers, burnout has been a contributing factor. Hospice aides reported “episodic symptoms” of burnout that were largely driven by workload challenges and administrative demands in a 2020 study from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Participants included hospice aides, social workers, nurses, clinicians, chaplains and other staff.
The study’s participants reported that team support at an organizational level was important to retention. Having “a multipronged approach that includes both personal and occupational strategies is needed to support professional caregivers and help mitigate the stressors associated with hospice work,” researchers indicated.
Aides and other hospice workers are in high demand in California, which is among the states with higher volumes of Medicare decedents who elect hospice, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Seniors 65 and older represent 14.6% of the Los Angeles county region, reported the U.S. Census Bureau. An estimated 156,000 Medicare decedents elected hospice in California during 2021, the highest number nationwide that year, according to CMS.
Hospice Home Care’s scholarship initiative is intended to retain this workforce by recognizing their important contributions amid challenges in care delivery, as well as the difficulties they experience along their career plights, according to Winthorpe.
“Looking at all of the trials and tribulations facing health care workers this year made us realize the importance of initiating a program that would assist our hospice home care aides who continuously have to make some very difficult choices in the field while simultaneously continuing to care for friends and family during the most challenging times,” she said. “As a result of their commitment, we took the initiative to support and recognize their efforts on their continued career journey with us as we look upon them with admiration.”