Demand for care of aging population drives college to create new geriatric health care program – WBAY

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) – While the pandemic has taught us a lot about the capabilities of our health care system, it’s also exposed a critical need for more caregivers and nurses specifically trained to work with the elderly.

If you have a loved one living in a nursing home or assisted living facility, you’ve seen firsthand the hard work of caregivers, CNAs and other staff.

It’s often a thankless job, with low pay and takes a person with a big heart to feed, bathe, groom and love our senior population.

But as people are generally living longer, finding employees who want to — and know how to — work with the elderly is getting harder and harder.

“As a result of the rapid growth of the elderly population, we’re finding ourselves in a workforce shortage in almost all areas of health care,” says Kerry Winkler, UW-Green Bay Program Specialist with the Division of Continuing Education and Community Engagement. “Near the year 2030, roughly 31 million Americans will be older than 65, which is the largest population in American history.”

It’s such a concern local employers are reaching out to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, asking for help.

“Just talking with different health care facilities, basically every facility has indicated that having specialized geriatric knowledge would be (a) benefit,” says Winkler.

In response, the college is creating a new Geriatric Health Certificate Program.

Winkler says there will be two classes in the fall, two in the spring and one in the summer.

They’re offered online and specifically directed at geriatric care.

“There’s a lot of different things that go with taking care of the elderly that you don’t necessarily think of, so this will definitely give you the skills and the tools to be able to do that,” she says.

Winkler says the program is meant to enhance a degree a person already has in nursing or other health care, giving them more job opportunities or the chance to advance their career.

And it may just help with one of the biggest roadblocks in this industry: pay.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows nursing assistants’ pay ranges from less than $11 an hour up to $20 per hour.

“Because there’s such a high demand for this, employers are going to want to attract, and one of the ways to attract is to offer that pay incentive if they had that experience,” explains Winkler.

She says the convenience of the program, plus its flexibility — allowing people to balance classes with work or family — plus the cost of UWGB’s program compared to others, makes this more appealing.

“I know CNAs and caregivers… their salary isn’t always up there, so to be able to offer it at a better price, I think is catching people’s eye,” adds Winkler.

To learn more about the program or to enroll, click here. Classes begin in the fall.

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