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Understanding HSS


The Health Support Specialist (HSS) Registered Apprenticeship program was a credential available in the aging services field from 2008 – 2019. Combining on-the-job training with online instruction, the HSS program trained apprentices in all areas of caring for older adults, including memory care, culinary, environmental services, meaningful activities, physiological and psychosocial care.

Through an enhanced on-site training model and relevant online curriculum, HSS trained students to be innovative and creative champions in their communities that enhance the experience of aging.

  • HSS organizations invested in their team members while providing the highest quality of care for people in their communities.
  • HSS apprentices learned how to best serve residents while building confidence in themselves and advancing their career in caregiving.

The Health Support Specialist model was a catalyst in understanding and transforming the way we serve older adults. It built leaders at the bedside, advancing careers in caregiving and breaking down institutional practices of the past.

HSS empowered direct care team members to take on more responsibility, become leaders in their organizations and take pride in their work.

How We Started

The Health Support Specialist program grew out of the need for a more skilled and more stable aging services workforce.

LeadingAge Minnesota, an association representing over 1,000 older adult service providers across Minnesota, was approached by leaders in the field who were in need of a training model—something that would help elevate the status of caregivers and address the increasingly complex needs of people they were serving.

After a national search for new models, conversations with providers, direct care leaders, and faculty from the Minnesota State, a new curriculum relevant and advantageous to both organizations and team members was created using an innovation grant from HealthForce Minnesota.

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By 2020, direct care workers will account for the largest occupational group in the U.S. By 2035, the number of people over the age of 65 will outnumber—for the first time in history—the population of school aged children in Minnesota.

– MN State Demographic Center

Who We Worked With

When it concluded, the HSS was a collaborative effort between several leading organizations:

U.S. Department of Labor
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HSS Today

Through the support of our partnership, we worked to elevate the status of caregivers in aging services, strengthen the quality of care for older adults and expand the HSS program across Minnesota.

Pioneering Organizations

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