Duluth ranks fourth for home health aidesMichelle Fischer works 12- and 14-hour days caring for a client with multiple physical needs.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Michelle Fischer works 12- and 14-hour days caring for a client with multiple physical needs.
The 58-year-old Duluth woman finds the work fulfilling.
“I love it,” said Fischer, an LPN who has worked since April for Ecumen Lakeshore at Home, based at 4000 London Road. “It is so good to give what I feel is quality, one-on-one care.”
A survey released on Thursday suggests Fischer is in a good place to do the work she loves.
ValuePenguin, a consumer finance website launched earlier this year, ranked Duluth as the fourth-best city for home health and personal care aides to work among more than 300 surveyed.
Duluth ranked just ahead of Rochester, Minn., which in turn was just ahead of the Twin Cities in the survey. Milwaukee ranked first overall. Five of the top 10 places for home health-care and personal care jobs were in Minnesota or Wisconsin.
Perhaps not a coincidence, said Brian Quinn, co-founder of ValuePenguin.
“I do think there’s a correlation between Minnesota consistently ranking as one of the top five or six healthiest states, and its high ranking in this particular study,” Quinn said in an email.
It’s a growing field overall, Quinn wrote in a news release accompanying the survey. Almost 2 million health and personal care aides assist the disabled and impaired now, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the profession to grow 70 percent over the next 10 years as baby boomers continue to age.
Duluth was one of four cities highlighted in a report accompanying the survey.
It’s one of the smaller cities in the survey, it said. “Nonetheless, it had a strong showing and is definitely worthy of a top five finish.”
Duluth’s strong point, the survey said, was its so-called “location quotient.” That’s a measure of the jobs available in a particular field as a percentage of all occupations in that area. That is then compared to the national average. A higher number indicates a higher demand for employees in that field, the survey said.
Duluth had the highest location quotient of any of the top 30 cities in the survey.
Not surprising, said John George, clinical director of private-duty nursing for Lakeshore at Home.
“There’s a lot of opportunity for health-care professionals in the area, from home health aides all the way up to physicians,” George said.
Duluth also ranks among the lowest 30 percent of the cities in terms of cost of living, the survey said. The average salary for home health and personal care aides here, $22,340, is above the median of $20,170.
Fischer, who moved with her husband to the North Shore about a year ago from Woodbury, Minn., said that given the cost of living, the pay is fine.
“It’s very good,” she said, adding, “We have a lovely benefits package.”
She also likes the schedule, which includes long days but also a week off in between.
“I can run down to the Cities and see my grandkids, and that sort of thing,” she said.
But Fischer didn’t find her job right away. Positions are a little less plentiful for LPNs than for RNs and personal aides, she said.
Shauna Koppy, 22, said it didn’t take her long to find her job as a personal care assistant for Lakeshore at Home.
The full-time nursing student at the College of St. Scholastica also is working full time with a client who needs help walking, getting dressed and undressed, tube feedings overnight and personal hygiene care.
She wasn’t surprised to hear that Duluth ranked as a good place for her work.
“I think there’s a lot of options here for seniors and people looking for home care,” Koppy said.
Home Instead Senior Care, which provides a variety of nonmedical services, has 340 clients and 243 personal care aides, said Char Johnson, human resources and office manager. Almost all of the employees work part time, and include homemakers, retirees and nursing and education students, among others.
Johnson agreed that Duluth is a good place for people to work in personal care.
“There’s lots and lots of openings all around,” Johnson said. “Everybody is always looking for the best and brightest.”
Still, the work isn’t for everyone.
“To be a caregiver it takes a special person, somebody that’s sensitive to the needs,” said George, who supervises about 30 home health workers and personal aides caring for about 90 clients.
But some people are drawn to the work.
“I’m a natural caregiver; it’s what I want to be doing,” Koppy said. “It doesn’t bother me to do personal hygiene care and things like that, because it’s just a part of the job.”
George feels the same way, continuing to work as a caregiver himself while supervising others in the profession.
“I can’t let go of the patient contact,” he said.