Mandates are not the solution to our growing nursing home crisis
Washington often means well, but sometimes the left hand isn’t talking to the right. Such was the case earlier this month, when the U.S. State Department issued a visa freeze impacting international nurses at the same time that the Biden administration plans to soon issue a minimum staffing mandate for nursing homes.
It wasn’t the State Department’s fault — there are statute limitations on how many visas can be processed each year. Yet thousands of much-needed nurses are unable to enter the country now. It is an example of a key missed opportunity to help bolster our long-term-care workforce, and how Washington is leaving real solutions to address the labor crisis on the table.
Nursing homes are eager to grow their workforce but are still in the process of rebuilding after COVID-19. The sector lost nearly 250,000 workers over the course of the pandemic — more than any other health care sector. The total number of individuals working in nursing homes today has dipped down to levels not seen since 1995. Even though providers are doing everything they can to try to recruit new caregivers, they struggle to find qualified applicants, as well as to compete against hospitals and other employers due to limited government funding.