Help Us Hire, Don’t Require
Nursing homes are desperate to hire more caregivers but struggle to find people to fill open positions and retain the staff they have now. Unfunded staffing mandates do not create jobs or attract individuals to apply. We need critical investments in our long term care workforce, policies to build a pipeline of caregivers, and a comprehensive approach to staffing beyond numbers.
Many of these workforce solutions are outlined in AHCA and LeadingAge’s Care For Our Seniors Act.
Invest in our frontline caregivers.
Nursing homes have dedicated every possible resource to recruit and retain caregivers—including increasing wages—but it hasn’t stemmed the tide. With most residents relying on Medicaid or Medicare, soaring inflation and labor costs are unsustainable on fixed government rates. The average nursing home is operating in the red. Nursing homes need government assistance to address this labor crisis and compete against other employers.
“A federal staffing mandate could require $11.3 billion each year to hire nearly 200,000 more caregivers.”CLA
Government staffing mandates need to be matched with corresponding resources. With proper funding, nursing homes can offer more competitive wages and benefits to help recruit caregivers.
Additionally, we need workforce policies to help further incentivize people to serve in long term care, like:
Build a pipeline of caregivers for a growing elderly population.
Even if nursing homes had the resources to hire an additional 200,000 caregivers, the number of qualified nurses and nurse’s aides is scarce. The country is grappling with a nationwide nursing shortage and many nursing schools have waiting lists due to a lack of teachers.
Federal and state policymakers need to strengthen our infrastructure to train potential caregivers through higher learning institutions. Direct incentives, like funding and grants:
- Encourage states to invest in nursing education programs
- Support universities that have graduates work in long term care for 2 years or more
- Establish formal partnerships between nursing homes and universities to provide tuition-paid scholarships to nursing students who plan to work in long term care
Meanwhile, let’s embrace innovative models that encourage more entry-level, non-clinical positions—like the temporary nurse aide or universal worker roles we’ve seen during the pandemic.
Take a comprehensive approach to staffing beyond numbers.
Every resident and nursing home is different, and a one-size-fits-all approach is not the best solution for our nation’s seniors. Staffing minimums dictate facilities to meet numbers, stifling innovation and leading to unintended negative consequences. Mandates may force nursing homes to turn to costly, temporary agency staff, which are associated with poorer care.
Nursing homes need to be able to assess the appropriate staffing levels based on their number of residents and the specific needs of their residents. Moreover, staff training and experience matters. Facilities with high staff retention and training methods are better able to deliver consistent, quality care.
“We continue to be concerned that a mandated ratio could result in unintended consequences…and would not result in the improved quality and person-centered care that we seek in facilities.”Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 2016