Shortages on products and employees are widespread and nationwide across countless industries. Now, the predicament has reached nursing homes.
Nurses are paramount to the health and well-being of nursing homes. Annually, over the past ten years, nursing home employment was on the rise, with 3.15 million nursing home employees in January of 2011, and a whopping 3.38 million employees in January of 2020. In the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, however, these numbers fell to record lows with a reported 2.95 million nursing home employees nationwide in September of 2021.
The challenge is burdensome to overcome, with virtually all nursing homes recording hardship with hiring staff and 7 in 10 reporting having a “very difficult time”.
Nurses in Ohio are some of the highest in demand, with Ohio ranking 3rd for most nursing homes in-state, behind Texas and California. The staffing shortage knows no bounds, however, as Ohio nursing facilities documented the largest nursing assistant shortage of any U.S. state in 2020. From April of 2020 to April of 2021, the demand for qualified nurses grew 12.8% in Dayton, Ohio and 13% in Cincinnati, Ohio and the deficit has yet to cease.
Nursing home staff-to-patient ratios decreased by 32% between February of 2020 and January 2021. A recommendation put forth by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare suggests that residents obtain an average of four hours of nursing care per day. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of nursing homes struggled to meet the suggestion, but since the ongoing shortage, residents get, on average, 21 minutes of nurse contact, or less, per day.
There are innumerable factors that have contributed to the shortage. Most glaring is that 62% of healthcare workers have experienced increased stress as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Initiating a snowball effect, this stress has resulted in 56% losing sleep, 31% reporting head and/or stomach ache, and 16% noting an increase in drug or alcohol use. Now, cyclically, as the pandemic takes its toll, medical facilities find themselves understaffed, increasing stress in the staff and prompting them to leave, repeatedly and devastatingly.
The majority of nursing homes lack the financial flexibility to increase staff pay or offer new and improved benefits. In 84% of nursing facilities, as of June 2021, revenue is declining due to a reduced hospital-to-nursing home patient flow. With non-essential procedures paused due to the prioritization of Coronavirus patients, fewer short-term patients are being admitted to nursing homes. Since short-term nursing home residents are reimbursed at much higher rates, this shift negatively impacts nursing facilities financially. Between this trend and the need for additional safety protocols and PPE (personal protective equipment), nursing homes were strained and had to cut expenses when nurses desperately needed them most.
Though conditions are bad, bettering conditions has the potential to lessen employee turnover and employee burnout. By ensuring employee safety, offering personal support, and expressing gratitude for staff, nursing homes can work on maintenance and taking care of their current employees despite the monumental shortage.