The COVID-19 pandemic has caused nursing home staffing shortages across the United States, even forcing facilities to close, but some states have been hit harder than others. A new analysis looks at which states are confronting the worst staffing problems.
Overwhelmed by the stress of long hours, low pay and exposure to the COVID-19 virus, nursing home workers have been quitting in record numbers. According to the Service Employees International Union, more than 420,000 workers — nearly 10 percent of the workforce — left the long-term care industry between the start of the pandemic and January 2022. The labor hemorrhage has turned what was already a chronic staffing problem into a full-blown crisis as understaffed facilities struggle to care for patients, accommodate family visitation, and admit new patients waiting in hospitals to be discharged.
The online platform Seniorly, which helps families find senior living facilities, recently analyzed staffing data in all 50 states and identified which ones have been hardest hit. Overall, one-quarter of nursing homes in the United States had staff shortages as of the end of February 2022, but Minnesota was reporting the most, with 41 percent of facilities experiencing a scarcity of workers. Washington and Maine also had large numbers of facilities with insufficient staff (close to 38 percent in both states).
According to Seniorly, the biggest shortages are among nursing workers (registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and vocational nurses) and aides (certified nursing assistants, nurse aides, medication aides, and medication technicians). These are the employees who provide the most direct care to nursing home residents. Although fewer facilities (an average of 3.5 percent) are experiencing shortages of higher paid workers, such as physicians, physician’s assistants, and advanced nurse practitioners, the number of facilities with a dearth of even these types of workers has jumped almost a percentage point since 2020.
While most states are enduring huge staffing problems, a few states are actually trending in the right direction. Arkansas, Connecticut, and Texas have fewer facilities reporting staffing shortages than in 2020. And California has the lowest percentage of facilities with staffing issues (about 2 percent).