In January of 2021, Experience Care’s Peter Murphy Lewis began interviewing leaders in long-term care with the goal of giving listeners an inside look into the operations of care facilities. Now he is putting the spotlight on direct caregivers and even studying to become one himself.
Since the summer of 2020, at least one-fifth of nursing homes in the U.S. have reported a shortage of direct care workers every month. In some states, that number reached 60 percent during COVID-19 surges. Nursing homes and long-term care facilities have made it clear that they need all the support that they can get.
Now, a popular podcast host is doing his part to raise awareness about the struggles of American nursing homes. Lewis first gained fame in Chile as the titular character of Aquí Te Las Traigo Peter (“Presenting: Peter”), a show that followed the Kansas native on various outdoor adventures in Latin America. In 2020, he returned to the U.S. to start the LTC Heroes podcast, which provides a platform for industry leaders to give advice about topics like resident retention, creating predictable quality outcomes, and using Facebook ads to improve censuses.
After conducting dozens of interviews with industry leaders, Lewis came to realize that long-term care nurses are facing more challenges than ever. “I’d ask executives about obstacles to providing care, and they’d emphasize staffing,” Lewis said. “So while the yellow press gets front-page coverage, my team and I decided to, instead, focus on something positive: the love that simple, humble American folk have for their work in long-term care.”
The first measure Lewis took to help out direct caregivers was to dedicate an entire web series to the personal stories of CNAs, MDS nurses, and others involved in the care of seniors, including food service and maintenance. Short Stories From the Front Line of Long-Term Care captures the raw emotion and physical and psychological toll that these individuals experience on a daily basis.
When creating the series, Lewis fondly reflected upon the generous support his paternal grandparents, who suffered from dementia, received from their small nursing home in Osawatomie, Kansas. “My father took me along when he visited his parents every day, both at breakfast and lunchtime, and I witnessed, first-hand, the incredible dedication these nurses have,” he said. “And that’s the image of nursing homes I want our viewers to have.”
Still, though, Lewis knows virtual efforts only carry so much weight. During an interview with the vice president of business operations at one particular facility, the podcast host was inspired to embrace the role of caretaker himself. “He teared up when thinking about the difficulties his staff faced,” Lewis said. “So he decided to do his CNA training and work two days a week on the floor to better understand their needs. At that point, everything became clear for me.”
As he waits to begin his training, Lewis dedicates much of his free time to learning the industry by reading handbooks and CNA curriculums, taking notes, highlighting important excerpts, and memorizing as much as possible. “That day can’t come soon enough,” he said of the start of his CNA courses. “But before it’s time for the big test, I want to be as prepared as anyone so I can immediately get on the floor and be the best caregiver I can be.”
The podcaster hopes that his story will help inspire others to pursue a career in long-term care nursing in order to relieve America of a staffing crisis that only appears to be getting worse. “I’m just one person,” he said. “But I know I have a platform, and I owe these nurses a lot, so I’m doing my best to get the message out there, learn their industry, and then share the very human side of it as sincerely and accurately as possible.”
About Experience Care LLC: Founded in 1969, Experience Care LLC is one of the largest providers of electronic health records, revenue cycle management, and financial systems to skilled nursing facilities, assisted living, continuing care retirement communities, long-term acute care, and other long-term care organizations in the U.S. Experience Care’s mission is to make every long-term care organization a fulfilling place to live and work by helping maximize financial success and compliance to achieve the best teams, care, and outcomes.