By 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a growing aging population will require five million direct-care workers, including nurses and nursing home aides, up 48% from the 2010 level. This shortage of nurses and nursing aides is set to further impact the broad spectrum of senior living – from nursing homes to assisted living facilities and home healthcare – particularly as the aged population grows and chronic medical care is needed.
For example, a survey conducted in Wisconsin found that nursing homes are experiencing a staff vacancy rate of 8.95%; for assisted living facilities, the vacancy rate is a slightly lower at 7.14%. In addition, while facilities reported significant vacancies in all caregiver categories, existing shortages are particularly profound for certified nurse aides (CNAs) – the primary caregivers in both nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Skilled nursing facilities reported an average CNA vacancy rate of 11%; reported CNA vacancies in assisted living facilities were only somewhat lower at 9%.
The effect of nursing staff shortage is far reaching for facilities, including diminished quality of care. Research at the University of Pittsburgh, for instance, shows nursing homes with higher nursing aid turnover levels tend to have worse records for quality, as measured by issues as the number of patients with bed sores or urinary-tract infections.
“If you don’t really know the individuals [due to turnover] you’re taking care of, you can’t always address their needs in a timely manner,” says Dr. David Gifford of the American Health Care Association (AHCA). It is also costly. Hiring a new nursing aide typically costs about $4,000, including recruitment and administrative expenses, according to the AHCA.
The challenge of attracting nursing care depends on the position. For example, nurses may not consider going into senior living as a career path as it’s not a typical hospital or doctor’s position. When it comes to nursing aides, who do some of the toughest work in nursing homes, are among the residents’ closest companions, and often the first to spot a turn for the worse that requires medical attention, the challenges are more complex. They typically have a high rate of occupational injuries, low pay and inconsistent scheduling and duties. Turnover costs among nursing aides and other “front-line” workers in long-term health care is estimated at $6.3 billion a year, including expenses for recruiting and training.
The declining numbers of individuals preparing and willing to provide long-term care support and services come at a time when the Baby Boomer demand for those services is beginning what’s expected to be a steep ascent. It’s important for senior living facilities as part of their risk management strategy to employ a plan to hire skilled and trained staff to provide quality of care to their patients and residents. This will go a long way in not only meeting the demands of patients/residents but also in helping to stem both Professional Liability and Workers’ Compensation claims with fewer potential errors and on-the-job injuries.
Caitlin Morgan specializes in providing insurance solutions for assisted living facilities, nursing homes, home healthcare agencies and others. We can help you provide a comprehensive insurance and risk management program for your clients. Give us a call at 877.226.1027.