Nursing homes fail to replace staff that quit amid COVID outbreaks

  • Before pandemic, 82% of facilities did not meet recommended staffing levels
  • Pay levels are low and competition from hospitals is steep.
  • Industry says inadequate government funding impacts recruitment and retention

Nursing home staffs shrunk in the weeks and months after severe COVID-19 outbreaks, according to a new study, and federal data shows most facilities lost more than half their nurses and aides in the past year.

The study found facilities have struggled to refill openings, particularly among certified nursing assistants, who provide most bedside care – findings that both complicate and underscore the need for President Joe Biden’s push to establish nationwide staffing-level requirements.

“Will they come back? Or is this going to be a permanent shock to the caregiving workforce?” asked Karen Shen, the health economist who led the study.

Increased nurse staffing is linked to better health outcomes for nursing-home residents, with registered nurses playing a particularly important role in managing the spread of infectious diseases. That reality gained broader significance during the COVID-19 pandemic, which increased public awareness of nursing-home shortfalls.

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