In the United States, nearly every nursing home facility is facing a staffing shortage. While nursing home employment has grown every year for the last decade, it fell to record lows during the pandemic. Between June and September of 2021, 99% of nursing homes reported suffering a staff shortage. 59% say the problem has reached critical levels. Putting a spotlight on Ohio, one sees that their nursing homes report a greater shortage than any other state in 2020. After California and Texas, Ohio has the largest number of nursing homes in the country.
The reasons for staff shortages in nursing homes are obvious. Nursing home workers face extensive risk and stress during the pandemic. 56% report losing sleep over the increased demands of their job, often while receiving no form of extra pay. Even before the pandemic, their job was a hard one. Nurses pre-pandemic were already retiring at a faster rate than replacements could be trained. Symptoms of stress and burnout are even more common among younger workers.
Yet without these workers to provide care to nursing home residents, millions of elderly Americans suffer. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare recommend residents receive an average of 4 hours of nursing care daily. Most facilities did not meet this threshold even before the pandemic. Thanks to COVID-19, residents now receive an average of 21 fewer minutes of staff contact each day. That means less help at mealtimes, fewer baths and showers, and more frequent wounds and falls. With America’s nursing home population still projected to grow, this problem is on track to get worse over the next decade.
Most nursing homes cannot afford to raise pay or benefits for workers. New avenues for recruitment are needed to attract workers. More green cards and nursing programs in high schools could help.