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Opinion: Critical need for private duty nursing

By Senator Vin Gopal and Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez, October 17 2022 8:33 pm

OPINION

The health of our elderly and infirm is increasingly threatened by a shortage of homecare nurses and inadequate payment for their services. As elected representatives of two diverse districts, we have united in support and recognition of our state’s nurses who work in home care taking great care of our most vulnerable population.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates there are three million registered nurses in the workforce and demand for their services is expected to jump 7% by 2029.

It is imperative for NJ to safeguard its current and future healthcare heroes as they continuously deliver care throughout vulnerable lifetime changes, especially to those within the rapidly growing elderly population.

As our ever-changing world shifts from pre COVID-19 normalcy to the current aftermath, New Jersey’s healthcare industry continues to struggle with staffing needs particularly in the home care and hospice arenas.

Once the pandemic struck, impacting thousands of our constituents and their healthcare workers, staffing issues intensified exponentially at a higher rate than ever before. According to the New Jersey Collaborating Center for Nursing, between March 2020 and June 2020, 64% of New Jersey RNs experienced burnout, 10% needed mental health intervention, 80% reported high physical exhaustion, and 37% intended to resign within a 12-month period.

With the recent passing of our two-year mark in the pandemic, fewer nurses remain dedicated to their profession while more are opting for less burdensome opportunities with possibly more financial incentive. In 2021, approximately 100,000 U.S. nurses abandoned their jobs, which is the largest exodus in four decades. The vacancy rate of unfilled RN positions within NJ hospitals that year increased by 13.4%. Understanding the negative effects and future unpredictability in hospital settings left by COVID-19 provides insight to the lack of home care and hospice nurses.

Recently, Governor Murphy signed the NJFY 2023 Budget, which included a $1 rate increase for both Registered Nurses and Licensed Professional Nurses. While home care and hospice providers were appreciative of receiving the recent increase, we ask our fellow NJ Legislators to join us in securing an additional $4 per hour to appropriately fund private duty nursing. The $4 rate increase is essential because as the nursing shortage intensifies, the Medicaid rates for private duty nursing services need to be competitive.

By 2030, we will be facing one of the most acute nursing shortages in the nation’s history. This increase will greatly benefit our society, improve quality of care and give nurses more support for their irreplaceable services.

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