Addressing the Staffing Crisis in Long-Term Care

Lindsay Medlin
April 19, 2019
It’s time to think differently about how we approach [staff shortages]. We can’t afford to think about them the same way as occupancy rates begin to rise. At Straightaway, we are searching for some answers...

We know that staff shortages in long-term care are a national crisis.

As America ages, the labor force will struggle to keep pace. The number of adults aged 65 and older will jump from 49 million in 2016 to 95 million from in 2060. Of these adults, more than half (52 percent) will require long-term care services at some point in their lives for an average of two years. In that same time frame, adults of a working age (18 to 64) will only go up by 14 percent.[1]

With occupancy rates already at a decade high and staffing levels consistently low, nursing facilities are spending thousands of dollars just trying to keep up. Straightaway estimates that the direct cost of replacing a nurse aide is around $2,500. A CDC/NCHS report in 2014 estimated that the per facility cost for overtime and agency fees added up to approximately $130,000 annually.

Poor staffing problems doesn’t just stop there – the quality of care for your residents is at risk too. The Connecticut State Department of Health (DPH) issued a consent order in April of 2018 that required a New Haven skilled nursing facility to hire an independent nurse consultant and implement minimum staffing rations after inspections at the facility revealed many lapses in care as well as frequent safety violations. [2]

It’s uncommon for DPH to require nursing facilities to hire these outside consultants, but this mandate makes clear the broader issue affecting front-line care to nursing home residents: “insufficient staffing levels and caregivers who lack training.” (Rosner, 2018) Of the issue, Toby Edelman, senior policy attorney at the Center for Medicare Advocacy, said, “It’s pretty much a universal problem.”

Why is this universal problem going unaddressed? It’s time to think differently about how we approach it. We can’t afford to think about staff shortages the same way as occupancy rates begin to rise. At Straightaway, we are searching for some answers – why are your Nurse Aides leaving you? What can we do to make your Nurse Aides more prepared for their jobs before they are taking care of residents? How can we find better candidates to train as Nurse Aides in the first place?

We are designing our software to answer these questions. Tune in next week to read more about what we’ve got cooking!

[1] https://phinational.org/recruitment-retention-long-term-care-national-perspective/

[2] http://c-hit.org/2018/12/11/staffing-levels-culture-challenge-quality-of-nursing-home-care/

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