LEXINGTON, Ky. — Pandemic-related staffing shortages have now crept into another industry: nursing homes and assisted care facilities. Nearly all centers in American are facing a worker drought, according to a survey conducted by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.

What You Need To Know

  • 94% of nursing home providers have had shortage of staff members in the last month 

  • In the assisted living community, 81% said they had similar staffing shortages

  • More than half of nursing home and assisted living providers who participated reported they lost key members of their staff last year during the pandemic due to workers quitting, including among certified nursing assistants (CNAs) or direct caregivers and dietary staff

  • Close to 75% of nursing homes and nearly 60% of assisted living communities and their overall workforce situation has gotten worse since 2020

The recent survey of over 600 nursing homes and 122 assisted living communities across the U.S. shined a spotlight on workforce challenges. Karen Venis, the CEO of Sayre Christian Village, was among the facilities who participated. 

“It’s not unique to Sayre Christian Village, it’s not unique to Kentucky. It’s across the nation, we are seeing it all over the place,” Venis said.

The key findings of the survey highlight problems the industry faced. 94% of nursing home providers who responded in the survey said they had a shortage of staff members in the last month. Venis said the pandemic has taken its toll.

It’s an industry where heroes have been working on adrenaline the last 15 months and our folks are tired. We have a lot of folks who are leaving the industry altogether,” Venis said.

More than half of the nursing homes and assisted living providers surveyed echoed this sentiment. They reported losing key members of their staff last year during the pandemic due to workers quitting.

Venis said another reason for the shortages is that facilities have trouble keeping up with the salaries and bonuses that hospitals frequently offer.

“It’s difficult for us to compete with wages with what hospitals are paying, sign on bonuses with all the creative things. Our revenues are based on the reimbursements we receive from Medicaid, Medicare and other pay sources,” Venis said.

81% of nursing home providers stated in the survey that better pay and benefits would help improve the facility’s ability to recruit and retain staff members. Sayre Christian Village found ways to try and cope with the shortages by moving workers and resources around in order to care for the people the facility looks after.

“One thing we will never do is sacrifice the quality of care so if that means pausing admissions, reallocating our resources, whatever we need to do to continue to meet the needs of our residents that’s when we are going to do it,” said Venis.

But there is good news for Sayre Christian Village – the facility has a fresh crop of staff beginning orientation, which has the center feeling optimistic about the future.

“We have turned to the ship, we are headed in the right direction. We had 16 people in our orientation class this week so we are headed in the right direction,” Venis said.

The AHCA/NCAL says the survey shows the need to invest in the long term care workforce. The groups have proposals in their Care For Our Seniors Act that they state would enable providers to address staffing shortages.