(LibertySociety.com) – Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are feeling the nursing shortage crunch, with over 220,000 fewer positions filled in the sector since the beginning of the pandemic. Sadly, that leaves about 14,000 facilities short-staffed, subjecting the elderly to less than optimal care.
Although listed as fifth in demand on LinkedIn, nurses are in scarce supply, and the coronavirus did nothing to help close the gap.
However, understaffed nursing homes are nothing new, and the reasons aren’t limited to pandemic stress. In fact, the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) stated several factors are to blame for the shortage.
Reasons for the Shortage
AHCA/NCAL President Mark Parkinson recently stated “many caregivers are getting burned out” dealing with the coronavirus, causing them to choose another career path. Another factor at fault is the underfunding of Medicaid, leaving “long-term care providers struggling” to find quality staff to take proper care of elderly patients who live in facilities.
Although the employment issue seems to have worsened with the pandemic, co-founder of the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform Patricia McGinnis said nursing shortages at long-term healthcare facilities had previously been a problem. She cites inadequate pay for what they do as a big reason many workers leave. Nursing is stressful with long hours and budget constraints, so a higher turnover makes sense, especially when the compensation is low and the pressure is high.
America’s Most Vulnerable
Unfortunately, the ongoing deficiency affects not only patient care but other staff. Nurses who remain don’t have as much time to tend to patients properly, leading to a possible increased risk of medical errors, including deaths. In addition, these errors can culminate in over-medicating or under-medicating ailing patients who are mostly or entirely dependant on medical staff to survive.
With fewer nurses present to assist, those who remain may have to skip standard safety protocols to tend to everyone, potentially leading to safety issues for staff and patients and risky shortcuts. Bypassing set strategies and safety procedures could lead to compromised care of nursing home residents, but it can also result in staff injuries, further reducing available personnel.
To help resolve the problem, long-term facilities could offer reasonable pay and benefits to help attract more qualified staff. In addition, some schools could go the route of creating a flexible schooling schedule, including online, to recruit more people into the nursing program.
To care for the country’s aging population, education program organizations and employers need to get creative to pull people into the profession.
By understanding the issues affecting staffing levels in long-term care facilities, experts can address nursing shortage concerns to attract adequate staff to provide a healthy environment for the healthcare personnel and those the most vulnerable among us who need quality care.
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