LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Nursing homes in Kentucky are facing a staffing shortage that is leaving some concerned about the future of their facilities. A poll conducted last month by the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities (KAHCF) and the Kentucky Center for Assisted Living (KCAL) showed that 57% of those polled fear they will have to shut down if workforce issues persist.
In 1989 Kim Hobson began her career at Nazareth Home Highlands, a retirement home in Louisville.
âI think I walk past the front door of 62 people every day, so this is a great opportunity for me,â Hobson told Spectrum News 1.
Hobson started out as a certified drug technician. Then she said she graduated from a licensed practical nurse school or LPN and looked for other opportunities.
âI really enjoyed working with the Ursuline sisters, I ended up working, I went back to school in Spalding [University], and when I graduated I had my bachelor’s degree in nursing and came back here in 2002, âHobson explained.
After several other roles, Hobson added Director of Nursing to her resume in 2009.
Currently, she manages over 150 employees, from certified medical technicians to registered nurses. All roles ensure that someone’s loved one in the facility is taken care of.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc among residents of nursing homes, but it has also hit staff hard.
âWe’ve had some really tough days over the past 24 months, and many nights I was here until midnight, but it wasn’t just me. I would be here with my administrator. I have an amazing assistant director of nursing, you know it took a villageâ¦ we all came together, âHobson said.
Kentucky was already losing trained nursing staff on a regular basis before the pandemic. However, the pandemic has exacerbated this decline, for the Commonwealth and across the United States.
Since February 2020, healthcare has shrunk by 450,000 jobs, with nursing and residential facilities accounting for almost all of the loss, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Hobson said more than half of his staff before the pandemic were still working. However, Nazareth Home Highlands has lost many great employees due to circumstances caused by the pandemic, such as the closure of daycare centers and virtual learning for students.
Nazareth Home President Mary Haynes also said a contributing factor to the shortage of trained nurses is the bureaucracy that has escalated as COVID-19 has hit nursing homes hard.
“If you haven’t been here for a while, and then had some perspective and some understanding of all the federal rules that we have to follow on a daily basis, then you’re like, ‘You know, this is a little difficult, “” Haynes mentioned.
Two Kentucky associations that advocate for Commonwealth health care and assisted living facilities, the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities (KAHCF) and the Kentucky Center for Assisted Living (KCAL), surveyed its members last month. Comments show that employees left long-term care due to a number of factors, such as a lack of competitive salaries.
Other reasons employees have left long-term care include recruiting agencies, which offer more flexibility and higher salaries, hiring career employees for short-term contracts, the eventual COVID-19 vaccination mandate and staff burnout and stress.
“What we started to see is that healthcare facilities are no longer accepting applications or closing wings due to understaffing,” said KAHCF / KCAL President Betsy Johnson .
To address staff shortages, Kentucky care facilities need to get creative since Johnson and Haynes told Spectrum News 1 that simply raising wages to be competitive was not an option, as nursing homes are funded by the government through Medicaid and Medicare.
For example, Nazareth Home Highlands is flexible with employee schedules and focuses on creating an environment where employees enjoy working. The organization is also focused on building employee wages over the long term by offering career advancement, such as an in-house certified nursing assistant program.
âIt opened the door for people who really wanted to be here but couldn’t afford to go to school or couldn’t go Monday through Friday,â Hobson said. “They were able to come, and they were also able to work and learn as they went along, and that was a huge success for us.”
While Haynes of Nazareth Home has said his facilities are doing well with their current roster, there are still a number of positions to be filled. When hiring for Nazareth Home Highlands, Hobson said she focuses more on quality than quantity.
âIf I could just wave a magic wand,â said Hobson, âit would be right to have people who are just engaged.â
Hobson further explained that if Nazareth Home Highlands, hypothetically, could get 20 new hires tomorrow, it wouldn’t matter if they didn’t have the passion for this career.
“If I could have a magic wand it would be for people to know the value of being in the long term care industry and how rewarding it is.”
Team members, said Hobson, who would see this career as a calling, not just a job.
âI have one CNA in particular, she came over to me and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to work second shift for you for a little while because we’re going to go through this,’ Hobson said. are the kind of people I want. “
There are approximately 3,000 openings in Kentucky long-term care facilities, according to the KAHCF / KCAL survey.
If you are interested in resources to learn more about a career in long-term nursing or if you are looking for employment in the field Click here.
In addition, you can browse Nazareth Home in progress career opportunities.