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Author: Adrienne R. Smith/President and CEO of the New Mexico Caregiver Alliance Released: Sunday, October 31, 2021 at 5:19 PM Update: Monday, November 1, 2021 at 12:02 AM
Many employers call the office of the Union of Nursing Staff in New Mexico and ask us to help them promote nursing vacancies within the company.
They said they could not find enough nursing staff to fill the vacancies of direct nursing staff in these companies. It’s no surprise that employers are unable to fill these vacancies, because caregivers may have left the field for high-paying jobs in a completely different field.
Nursing staff may have left the direct care field collectively forever, not only for higher-paying jobs, but also for better work quality. I have talked with caregivers in New Mexico and employers in various industries; both told me that low-paid workers took advantage of the pandemic to receive job training outside of home care so that they could quit their current jobs.
Last week, a caregiver with children told me that she had permanently quit her job as a home care worker because the cost of taking care of the children was more expensive than her previous job's income of $10 an hour. Moreover, she did not accumulate any fringe benefits. In Bernalillo, New Mexico, where our organization is located, the starting salary for the most recent McDonald’s franchise is $11.00 per hour, vacation and sick leave, full payment of four-year college tuition, and opportunities for discounts such as mobile vans and rental cars Moved family to Benalillo. I am also willing to accept this job instead of a job that pays $10 an hour without any benefit.
But isn't this the same problem we talked about in the field of workforce development more than 10 years ago? Indeed, more than 30 years ago? The Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded that the average salary of home care workers in New Mexico in 2009 was $10.90; in 2019, it was $10.92!
In New Mexico, 83% of caregivers are women, 82% of people of color and 64% of caregivers live in poverty. These statistics describe the people who are working.
A young man who worked as a direct support person for people with developmental disabilities told me, “I work 10 hours a day and 5 days a week, but I am still poor!” And the work is very hard. It is physically demanding, it involves promotion and transfer of customers, and even negotiations with family members who may or may not support the worker at home.
Amazon, Facebook, and even Wal-Mart in New Mexico all offer prices of $15 or more per hour. If these jobs are not attractive enough, why not retrain as a truck driver and earn a starting salary of $25 per hour? Recently, I discovered that I must avoid encouraging caregivers and direct support staff to leave the field for retraining in new skills in order to obtain a better quality of work.
The caregiver himself seems to be making a rational decision to leave the field altogether.
Our organization should not encourage nursing staff to stay in this field. We should encourage them to switch to higher-paying jobs, provide paid vacation, medical insurance, and insist on getting the respect and recognition of employers who value them. Advocates and supporters of caregivers should help them do better jobs, rather than encourage them to continue to engage in low-wage, low-quality jobs.
PHI is a national research organization on direct care. It expects that by 2026 New Mexico will need to fill 75,500 new home care and direct support positions. The current crisis means that the elderly and the elderly will suffer the most. People with disabilities who need care.
Adrienne R. Smith is the President and CEO of the New Mexico Caregiver Alliance and a member of the Community Development Advisory Committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. The New Mexico Caregiver Alliance advocates the education, training, benefits, wages, and professional development of direct caregivers so that they can better serve the elderly and the disabled. The executive desk is a guest column that provides suggestions, comments, or information about the resources available to the business community in New Mexico. To submit a column for consideration, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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