Although many of us are inundated with news about the Covid-19 pandemic every day, there are many topics that don’t get as much attention as others. The focus has mainly been on vaccinations, masks, and mandates, which has caused “pandemic fatigue” for many (if not all) people across the globe. Unfortunately, this leaves little room for discussion on the long-term impacts of the pandemic. Many of us want this situation to just “go away,” but this is not reality. While the disease itself could get under control, Covid-19 has taken an unprecedented and long-lasting toll on the American healthcare system, including long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.
Nursing homes are facing a multitude of different predicaments all at once. Nursing home residents are not only more susceptible to illnesses but are also at higher risk to spread and infect others due to their living situation (shared rooms, shared dining halls/tables, shared activity rooms, shared bathrooms, etc). Here is a population of people that are at increased risk to catch a disease, spread a disease, and die from a disease: and this is not new. It has always been this way. Any person who has ever experienced flu season at a nursing home can attest to this.
To make matters worse, there is an unparalleled staffing shortage due to the pandemic. Nursing homes have always struggled with staffing, but the pandemic has exacerbated this issue. According to the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, nearly every nursing home (99%) and assisted living facility (96%) in the United States is facing a staffing shortage.
There are many issues contributing to the staffing shortages. Currently, vaccination mandates are causing staff members to leave their positions, positions that were tenuously held in the first place. In January of 2022, it was estimated that only 30% of nursing home staff across the country had received a Covid-19 booster. But the issue of vaccination is only the tip of the iceberg.
There are many reasons why, historically, nursing homes have struggled to achieve adequate staffing and retain employees, and here is a brief list of reasons why: long hours, shift work, moral distress, physical labor, injury, low pay, limited benefits, and many more.
This staffing shortage is putting enormous pressure on nursing facilities to recruit and retain staff members, and there are new incentives available. Many facilities have raised pay, provided sign-on bonuses, increased benefits, and provided programs such as tuition reimbursement to recruit new employees and keep current staff. While this pandemic has certainly caused hardship for the entire US healthcare system, there are many open doors right now for people who are interested in starting a career in healthcare.
We need caregivers more now than ever before. Families are pulling their loved ones out of facilities right now and are in need of in-home personal caregiving. Not only are there open doors in nursing facilities but there is also an increased need for personal (unlicensed) caregivers as well! Are you interested in helping solve the staffing shortage problem? Would you like to become a personal caregiver or certified nursing assistant? Reach out to us at Occupational Training Solutions and let us help you walk through that door.
Christina Brown MSN, RN