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Staffing Issues in Nursing Homes and the Issues they Create

Since the end of the pandemic, the topic of worker shortages has been never-ending. For example, some fast-food restaurants offer only drive-thru service because they state they need more employees to open the dining room. In addition, some businesses offer special signing bonuses for new employees. 

We also hear news stories about “the Great Resignation” and “slow quitting.” Some reports suggest that many people are only interested in working from home. 

But staffing issues are nothing new in the nursing home industry. While pandemic issues may have exacerbated problems, they have existed in some places for many years. In this blog post, we will discuss issues that existed during the pandemic, as well as some that have been a problem both before and after the pandemic.

Understaffing during the Pandemic

The first issue we will address is understaffing. It stands to reason that if a facility has too few employees, problems can arise for residents. A select subcommittee in the United States House of Representatives stated in a September 21, 2022, press release that it has been investigating “how large, for-profit nursing home chains have responded to the coronavirus pandemic.” 

While much of the evidence in the press release appears to be anecdotal, it is concerning. The subcommittee received many reports of understaffing of nurses and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) at nursing homes. As a result, there were numerous reports that residents received insufficient care and suffered neglect, which led to adverse health outcomes.

Understaffing Statistics

Certainly, the pandemic created issues that most of us have never faced. Many people began to leave their jobs in many industries for various reasons, including fear of personal safety. According to a USA Today article, citing federal data, almost half of nurses and aides left their jobs at nursing homes during the early stages of the pandemic.

But that was just an exacerbation of a problem that has long existed. USA Today further reports that even before the pandemic, 82 percent or more of the country’s 15,000 skilled nursing homes failed to meet the government’s minimum recommendations for nurse staffing. One USA Today investigation found thousands of examples of a nursing homes going all day and night without a registered nurse being on duty.

Potential Problems Caused by Understaffing

When there are not enough staff members to handle the number of residents in a nursing home, neglect can occur. Staff members are often overworked, attempting to take care of too many residents, and may have different attention to detail than they would otherwise have. Unfortunately, this neglect can have dire consequences. For example, residents may be left alone for long periods. When needed, they may not receive their medications, food, or water. A resident may require immediate medical attention and not receive it. Some residents are bedridden and not moved properly to avoid bed sores. The list of potential bad outcomes is almost endless.

Other Staffing Issues

While this post primarily addresses understaffing, problems can arise when a nursing home hires the wrong person. For example, failing to investigate applicants for a job properly can result in hiring people who are unqualified or have a history of abusive behavior. 

Call with Question

Nursing home residents deserve to be cared for properly and treated with dignity and respect. If you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect, please call us with your questions. We will answer them in a free consultation. The personal injury attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield have experience investigating and litigating nursing home abuse and neglect cases. We believe that the only way to make Oregon safe for everyone is to help hold those accountable who do harm to others.