As an industry leader, you may still be concerned by the healthcare staffing shortages and strenuous policies set forth during the COVID-19 pandemic. If so, there’s good news. According to a new report from Skilled Nursing News, the demand for skilled nursing services is expected to remain strong in the years ahead. The report also projects that the skilled nursing labor market will improve in the coming year.
Industry insiders believe the outlook is positive for skilled nursing in the next year, including staffing issues. Read on to learn the effects of the pandemic on the skilled nursing industry and contrast it with the positive outlook for 2023.
The State of Skilled Nursing During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The skilled nursing industry experienced various changes during the pandemic, affecting its outlook for several years.
The Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Skilled Nursing Sector
The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically affected skilled nursing staffing, leading to many negative effects, such as staffing shortages, strenuous new protocols and policies, and loss of morale.
The need for staffing increased exponentially due to the increased demand for healthcare workers as patients were hospitalized due to the virus.
The sudden increase in demand wreaked havoc on the skilled nursing sector. The byproduct was a drastic shortage of skilled nursing staff. Many healthcare providers couldn’t fill open positions due to the limited availability of qualified staff and the lack of training opportunities for newly hired employees.
The pandemic also created challenges for recruiting and retaining qualified nursing personnel. Healthcare facilities had difficulty finding new staff members because many potential candidates were afraid to join a facility dealing with a virus outbreak.
Thus, industry leaders’ top worry during the pandemic was staff shortages.
Strenuous New Protocols and Policies
Skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) had to adjust their protocols and policies to comply with new guidelines enforced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
The new regulations required that all skilled nursing staff members be tested for COVID-19 regularly, adding additional stress and workload to existing staff members. Many also left the industry entirely when these regulations were enforced, further exasperating the labor shortage crisis.
Loss of Morale
The COVID-19 pandemic also undeniably affected the morale of healthcare staff members. They were forced to work long hours in high-stress environments while coping with the stress of contracting or transmitting the virus to a family member.
The extreme shortage of qualified, skilled nurses also meant that skilled nursing facilities had to rely on an already-strained workforce of skilled nurses who were overworked and dealing with the emotional burden of seeing patients pass away from the virus. This pressure led to higher levels of burnout among staff and increases in sick leave and job turnover.
Skilled Nursing Outlooks During the Pandemic
As a result of the negative effects the pandemic had on skilled nursing staffing, intense worries about staff shortages plagued the entire sector. But there were more than just staffing shortages to worry about.
According to a March 2022 report from the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), skilled nursing leaders also faced challenges such as:
- Increasing costs due to inflation and labor
- Negative profit margins
- Increased risk for closures
- Challenges with access to capital
Positive Outlook for Skilled Nursing in 2023
Many industry leaders are becoming more optimistic about the industry’s prospects in 2023 as the world recovers from the effects of the pandemic.
This was largely proven in a 2023 Outlook Survey conducted by McKnight’s, which recorded responses from just under 1,000 nursing home owners, administrators, C-suite leaders, and nurse supervisors. The survey noted that 31% of all respondents said they were optimistic about the upcoming year’s prospects, up 11% from just under 20% in the 2022 survey.
They also noted improved industry outlooks in the following three areas.
Skilled Nursing Staffing
Forty-one percent of respondents listed healthcare staffing as one of their top two non-COVID-19-related challenges heading into 2023.
Yes, this number may seem large. But let’s compare it to 2022.
In 2022, 94% of respondents listed staffing as one of their top challenges just one year prior. That means that over half of the industry leaders have a more positive outlook toward skilled nursing staffing in 2023.
Occupancy and Job Satisfaction
It’s impossible to downplay the effects of financial pressure and arduous work conditions (pre- and post-pandemic) on the ever-present staffing shortage in the skilled nursing industry.
Despite this, administrators and nurses report more job satisfaction in the 2023 survey. When asked to rate their current level of job contentment from 1-10, administrators and nurses both had an average rating of 7.3. This increased from their 2022 average ratings of 5.6 and 5.5, respectively.
As we move into 2023, many healthcare organizations focus on fostering a positive culture that increases employee satisfaction and engagement. Many are also shifting to a value-based care model that prioritizes timely, quality care and reduced healthcare costs. Together, these factors significantly increase job satisfaction, improving employee retention.
Possible Staffing Rebounds
Finally, the survey shows that many industry leaders think a staffing rebound may be on the horizon shortly. Almost 60% of respondents stated that staffing has already returned to acceptable levels, close to pre-pandemic levels, or would return by the end of 2023. In 2022, only 22% of respondents thought that staffing would rebound.
More Skilled Nursing Staffing Help in 2023
It’s plain to see that the COVID-19 pandemic forever changed the skilled nursing sector. New policies and procedures may continue to force the industry to adapt as the world recovers from the pandemic.
However, focusing on forward-facing goals like improving company culture, prioritizing patient-centric care, and creating strategic benefits packages can help you be a part of the positive change in the skilled nursing industry. This ensures that your practice will continue to thrive in the future.
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