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Long-term care facilities battle severe staff shortages

Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 2:05 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The number of COVID cases might have tapered off in Virginia, but one of the pandemic’s effects continues on senior care homes: the staffing shortage crisis.

“Those who have been in this field for 30 or 40 years, say they have never seen the workforce challenges as bad as they are today,” said Amy Hewett, Vice President of Strategy and Communications for Virginia Center for Assisted Living.

There have always been struggles to fill out staff within care facilities, but never to this degree. Nursing homes alone have seen their industry’s employment level drop by 14 percent or 221,000 jobs since the beginning of the pandemic.

Staffing shortage throughout all care facilities
Staffing shortage throughout all care facilities(Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS))

“You’ve seen it already across the Commonwealth, but we are lucky to not see it here at Pinnacle Living,” said Chris Henderson, CEO of Pinnacle Living. “We see people closing beds, closing rooms, closing entire floors because they just don’t have enough people.”

The problem starts with burnout.

According to the Virginia Health Care Association, 81 percent of medical workers say overall, this year, somehow feels even worse than 2020.

Only 2 percent of long-term care facilities say they are fully staffed, and 96 percent said they are in need of more assistant nurses.

“You work with what you have, there are tough days, but when you love what you do - it makes it worth it,” said Temeika Ross, Director of Nursing at Pinnacle Living.

Ross became the Director of Nursing during one of the heights of the pandemic in early June when the Delta-variant became dominant worldwide. It would have been easy for Ross to leave, like so many others, but she said she felt a duty to her residents.

“I could never leave them like that, this pandemic is hard on everyone and I know my place is here with them,” said Ross. “I respect why others might have left because it can be a lot at times.”

To combat this, senior living facilities like Pinnacle Living have started offering higher starting wages of $15 an hour. They hope the better pay may entice much-needed workers to return to the workforce.

“This is a solid career choice for anyone looking for a job,” said Henderson. “A lot of people have looked at health services in general and said I don’t want to be in health care anymore ... but they’re great places to work.”

However, paying more to keep their team members does not come without consequences.

“We don’t have a crystal ball - we don’t know what inflation is going to do in the next several months,” said Henderson. “We know we are going to have to make some hard decisions to make in the future and it’s going to be reflected in the monthly fees they must pay and the services we provide.”

The pandemic and labor shortage are taking their toll on everyone: nurses, facilities and residents. With new variants of COVID popping up every few months, the need to find permanent staff members has never been more important.

“It cannot be emphasized enough how much they are needed, medical staff are the backbone of our organizations and to move forward we need to have people willing to work,” said Hewett.

Pinnacle Living is looking for a variety of different positions within its senior living communities. Anyone looking for more information about their positions should click HERE.

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