Skilled Nursing Facilities Struggle to Reinstitute Pre-Pandemic Standards
Two and a half years after the first U.S. pandemic lockdowns, data shows that more than half of surveyed nurses say staffing and care quality have not improved, with increased medical mistakes caused by lower staffing becoming the new normal.
QUINCY, Mass. — IntelyCare, the leading healthcare workforce management platform in the United States, released the first major study analyzing the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nursing home staffing levels and care quality. The IntelyCare Research Group study, based on a survey conducted by Reputation Leaders, found large numbers of caregivers see the repercussions of COVID as severe and long lasting. COVID’s immediate impact on staffing levels was widely reported in the media. Half of all nurses surveyed said staffing was too low during the pandemic, and more than two-thirds (70%) say staffing levels have not improved since then.
The study found that most post-acute nurses (60%) are dissatisfied with their jobs, and more than a third say their dissatisfaction is due to low nurse-to-resident staffing ratios, which are known to cause burnout. More than a quarter of nursing homes reporting to CMS said this spring that they continued to experience shortages of nursing aides. The IntelyCare study further revealed that 45% of nurses surveyed said that their patients received poor care due to low staff numbers during the pandemic, and two-thirds said the situation has not improved since then.
COVID made both caregivers and patients less safe. Government data shows a significant increase in all-cause mortality among nursing-home residents during the first year of the pandemic, especially in states with high community spread. Almost a third of nurses surveyed said that, as COVID spread, safeguards were ignored. Almost half say the level of safeguards has not improved.
“One victim that hasn’t recovered from COVID yet is the skilled nursing industry,” says Rebecca Love, chief clinical officer at IntelyCare. “The pandemic established a new normal, which hasn’t gone away, and we’re all finding the path out of the crisis together. As the US moves further away from the acute phase of the pandemic, and as CDC regulations continue to change, we think that nursing homes can find new ways to improve conditions for residents and staff.”
Numerous studies have shown that nurse staffing levels are directly correlated to better care and patient outcomes. IntelyCare’s post-pandemic survey shows that COVID’s effect on staffing led to more medical mistakes. Disturbingly, more than half of all nurses surveyed (51%) said that situation has not improved as the US exits the pandemic. Worse patient outcomes are in a feedback loop with staffing levels: Thirty-two percent of post-acute caregivers cite patient deaths as the biggest stressor of their work.
Addressing the long-lasting impacts of the pandemic is an issue for nursing homes that struggle to recruit and retain staff. In previous surveys, IntelyCare found that the flexibility offered by gig work had a major impact on job satisfaction. Nursing homes that manage to offer flexibility through programs like in-house PRN float pools, enabled by innovative software platforms, may be able to counteract the lasting effects that COVID has had on post-acute staffing.
At IntelyCare, our mission is to empower healthcare professionals to work better, together. The leading healthcare workforce management platform, IntelyCare’s AI-based float pool management and per-diem matching technology enables healthcare facilities to staff properly. While nursing professionals can use IntelyCare’s app to get the scheduling flexibility they deserve. In creating a better working environment for healthcare professionals, IntelyCare is helping to end the nurse staffing crisis and ensure that patients receive optimal care.
Joe Casados, Bospar PR