Mr. Orsini shares thoughts on the ongoing need for recruitment and hiring
Va. nursing homes, assisted living facilities struggle with staffing
Survey shows facilities need nurses
Published December 22, 2022/Courtesy: Virginia Business
Virginia’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities continue to struggle with staffing shortages, according to a Virginia Health Care Association-Virginia Center for Assisted Living survey released in December.
Of 154 long-term care providers who responded to the survey, 86% said their workforce situation worsened in 2022 compared with 2020, an increase of five percentage points from the 2021 survey.
Joe Hoff, president and CEO of Friendship, which has nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult day care and independent living across two facilities in Roanoke and one in Salem, needs about 50 to 75 more employees to be fully staffed. Friendship currently has about 650 employees, with about 1,000 residents on average.
“There’s just a critical nursing shortage across the country, but I’d say within the past two years, it’s been a bit harder to find staff,” Hoff said. Although some people who retired or left the workforce during the pandemic are coming back, they aren’t returning to the workforce as fast as they left, he added.
A persistent problem
Of the facilities surveyed, 93% reported vacancies for certified nursing assistants/direct caregivers, 87% have vacancies for licensed practical nurses and 70% have vacancies for registered nurses.
Tom Orsini, president and CEO of Lake Taylor Transitional Care Hospital in Norfolk, has roughly 400 employees, about 190 of whom are nurses or nursing assistants. The facility has 104 long-term acute care beds and 192 nursing home beds. Orsini needs about 20 more nurses or CNAs and has been using contract nurses in the meantime.
“It’s just the field of people competing for this resource has grown,” said Orsini. “If you’re a nurse, you don’t have to come out and do hands-on nursing. There’s a lot of other opportunities for nurses,” like working in home health, doctors’ offices or labs.
Eighty-two percent of respondents had a shortage of staff to fill all shifts in the 60 days before the survey, which VHCA-VCAL conducted from Sept. 7 to Sept. 30. In those 60 days, 96% of providers said they had asked staff to work overtime or take extra shifts, up from 92% in 2021.
Lake Taylor Transitional Care Hospital has asked staff to work on their scheduled days off, Orsini said, even if they can’t work a full shift that day.
Facilities also had vacancies for dietary staff and housekeeping staff, with 67% reporting the former and 55% reporting the latter. Friendship raised its minimum wage to $14 an hour to recruit and retain dietary and housekeeping staff, Hoff said.
Part of the difficulty filling nursing positions has been a lack of qualified applicants, survey results show. More than half (55%) of the respondents indicated they had few to no qualified applicants.
Filling open positions takes longer now, Orsini said.
“Before COVID, it could just be just a couple of weeks,” he said. “We’d simply put advertisements in the normal professional advertising websites, and we would get applicants. It would just seem that there were more applicants out there.”
But now, the process takes about three to four months. Part of the problem, he said, is that health care facilities are competing with service industries that they didn’t previously have to compete with, like fast food restaurants, which can raise their wages quickly and pass prices on to consumers.
“We can’t do that. We deal with third parties — Medicare, Medicaid and commercial insurance — where rates are already set. So we have to wait till we renegotiate contracts or the new rate year starts,” to raise pay, he said…