When it comes to skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes, nurses are among the primary providers who provide day-to-day care to residents. These nurses are expected to adhere to strict infection control practices to ensure that the spread of infections and illness are kept to a minimum, yet nursing facilities often have infection rates very high.
Before COVID-19, 380,000 nursing home residents died from infection each year. Things like respiratory infections, skin and soft tissue infections, flu, and stomach related issues are some of the biggest illnesses that are spread in nursing homes. 1 to 3 million serious infections occur each year in nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities. With the infection so prevalent in these communities, one would assume that all necessary precautions are being taken, but in reality, 40% of nursing homes were cited for poor infection control practices prior to the pandemic.
When the pandemic hit, these problems were only higher. While nursing home residents make up less than 1% of the US population, they accounted for 1 in 5 COVID-related deaths. COVID-19 sadly killed 136,000 nursing home residents as well as 2,000 healthcare providers in the facility. While conditions were already poor before the pandemic in many facilities, a lack of staff and funding has only made matters worse and now more than 300 nursing homes have closed. Even in 2022, more than 400 certified nursing homes in the United States are on the verge of closing due to lack of staff and funding.
When it comes to preventing the spread of infection and COVID-19 in nursing care settings, nurses play a key role. However, 89% of healthcare organizations are experiencing staff shortages, which has significantly increased the stress levels of the remaining workers. Since January 2020, around 236,000 caregivers have left, and the remaining nurses are feeling burnt out, overwhelmed, undervalued, frustrated and stressed. Along with this, more than 1 in 4 nurses experienced increased incivility or intimidation from administration, managers, supervisors and other nursing staff. So, with so many nurses leaving during the pandemic, more than half of the remaining nurses have considered quitting their jobs.
Nurses who stayed on also had to deal with new policies being put in place as well as a shortage of personal protective equipment. These nurses were forced to reuse their PPE even though nearly 2 in 3 felt unsafe. Even last year, nearly 75% of establishments had still not had their staff tested for N-95.
Healthcare providers who have remained in their facilities have obviously had to deal with extra work and stress, which can cause them to forego simple practices like hand washing. Skipping these very important steps and having to reuse PPE increases the likelihood of transmitting infections and COVID-19. With so many facilities set to close, it is more important than ever to ensure proper practices are in place to help control infections. The best way to achieve this is to ensure that nurses receive the proper equipment and tools, as well as up-to-date training to ensure they are able to implement and practice security policies.
Facility nurses can benefit from monthly in-person training focused on preventing the spread of infections in their facilities. These training sessions go back to the basics before introducing more advanced techniques and offer hands-on training rather than just general guidelines. Even one day a month of in-person training can help ease the pressure on nurses to ensure their patients in assisted living facilities receive the best treatment possible.
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