Local lab tackles nursing home shortage

A local entrepreneur is working to tackle the shortage of home care workers and reduce stigma among recent nursing school graduates. Lala Health Care Solutions founder Chantal Torrain designed a lab to give nurses home health training they wouldn’t get elsewhere in their training.

The growing shortage of healthcare workers is compounded by an aging population and more home care. Home healthcare is needed more than ever, but the industry is still struggling to fill vacancies. Three-quarters of people over 65 live with chronic conditions, and with health care costs rising unsustainably, hospitals and health systems are trying to keep people out of hospital if possible.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that home health aide and personal care openings will increase 37% by 2028. Meanwhile, many nurses are leaving their jobs for nursing staffing agencies, which offer better salary and more flexibility. The growing popularity of staffing agencies has increased pressure on home health agencies, which struggled to staff before these conditions even existed.

The Texas Department of Health is currently conducting a home health study to determine the extent and effects of the nursing shortage in Texas home care and hospice agencies, forecast the number of nurses needed in Texas and serve as a resource for decision makers.

In the world of home health care, Torrain found that many recent nursing graduates were encouraged to avoid home care right out of school because they weren’t prepared in school for the types of home health services and risked losing other skills they had recently learned. Parker’s Room Lab was designed to provide training for nurses to feel comfortable working from home and using their nursing skills.

Torrain founded home health care provider Lala Health Care Solutions in 2018 after decades as a nurse here in North Texas, transitioning to home health to be more flexible and have time to be with his family. The company now employs 220 nurses and 21 administrative positions between the Dallas and Plano sites. Despite the company’s success, she found that nurses had almost no targeted structural orientation to home health care.

“My goal is to bring students here and show them the other side of home health and how home health could support them in their careers and how it could be a great option,” says Torrain.

Home nurses often care for adults and children who need round-the-clock supervision and must be able to operate mechanical ventilators, maintain a power station such as for fluids or medications, and d maintain other complicated equipment in a patient’s home without the aid of an entire facility.

For the past year and a half, Torrain has worked to launch Parker’s Room Lab to provide a home health experience for nursing students. Through partnerships with UT Arlington (the largest nursing school in the state) and other nursing schools, nursing interns come for a week-long training where they gain experience with a high-fidelity manikin that can replicate many real-world diagnoses and scenarios. Time spent in the lab will also count as state-certified continuing education credits.

The organization saw its first cohort complete the training program last year, and the lab schedule is already full. “We’re already packed,” says Torrain. “I would have liked to make a bigger laboratory. I didn’t expect the schools to be so welcoming. It has been a blessing.

The course enables future nurses to talk about being in a patient’s home and how the caregiver can advocate for the patient regarding the social determinants of health. They may notice a lack of food or cleanliness or other obstacles to healthy living that a nurse in a hospital could never see. The home caregiver should know how to connect the patient with resources or a social worker who can address non-health care needs.

Torrain has been a longtime advocate for nursing, home health and services to some of the most vulnerable patients in the healthcare system, but he’s proud of the difference the lab is making. “It’s been a long journey for me,” she says. “With the shortage of nurses, you have to be creative in how we bring in nurses, but you don’t want to compromise quality. It is important to train these nurses so they can walk into a home knowing they have the right training.

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Will is the editor of CEO magazine and editor of D CEO Healthcare. He wrote about health care…

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