Long-term Care Staffing Vacancies, An Increasing Crisis

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on February 26, 2020 in Nursing Home Abuse
Updated on April 25, 2024

Nurse helping woman up the stairsWisconsin is facing a staffing crisis in many of its long-term care facilities and nursing homes. While there are many open vacancies, providers state many positions are not being filled. Part of the problem is that as many of 70 percent of applicants who do respond are often not well-qualified, and of those who are hired, many simply fail to show up for work.

The greater reason for these vacancies is more complicated, such as if a facility is unable to offer direct workers (nursing assistants, home health aides and personal care aides) a competitive salary or benefits when compared to what entry-level non-healthcare workers receive. To complicate matters further, state and federal training standards for certified nursing assistants (CNAs) fail to recognize the staffing crisis and continue to create barriers for candidates who may be considering a caregiver career path. Additionally:

  • On average, caregiver vacancy rates between 2016 and 2018 increased by 23.5 percent
  • As many as 1 in 4 staffing positions remain unfilled
  • In nursing homes, the vacancy rates for registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) rose to almost 22 percent
  • Combined vacancies for Wisconsin long-term and residential care facilities rose from 16,500 in 2018 to 20,655 in 2019.

Providers say that sometimes they do not get even one applicant to respond to an employment opportunity.

Why There is a Staffing Crisis

There are a multitude of reasons for why the care staffing crisis continues in Wisconsin, including:

  • Increased number of departures of existing caregivers (more than 9,700 nursing home care staff left for non-healthcare jobs last year).
  • Since 2017, studies show there has been a 25 percent decrease of nursing assistants.
  • 2019 saw 5,586 less nursing students on the Wisconsin Nurse Aide Registry than the previous year.
  • The low (3.3 percent) Wisconsin unemployment rate means increased competition for existing jobs.
  • Minimum starting wage for entry level non-skilled workers increased to $13.00 per hour, however healthcare facilities could only increase salaries for direct care workers by 2.3 percent.
  • Over 43 percent of existing licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and 1 in three registered nurses (RNs) are 55 and older and experiencing “burnout” due to longer shifts and less staff.

What Role Does Medicaid Play in the Crisis?

Medicaid may have an effect on the number of staff vacancies for facilities where reduced Medicaid reimbursements come into play. Reduced reimbursement rates mean nursing homes have a tighter budget and can neither offer wage increases to existing employees or compete with other non-healthcare salaries and benefits, so the percentage of caregivers looking for work outside of a healthcare career may continue on an upward trend.

The Center for Medicare Advocacy  indicated the real issue in some of these facilities is the consistent deficiencies and lack of quality of care. Many of the facilities complaining that their Medicaid funding has been reduced are Special Focus Facilities that have a low Medicaid rating. This rating affects the Medicaid reimbursement rate, which then affects the ability to hire more staff as well as the resident occupancy rate. In cases where the facilities in question do not improve their quality of care or address the deficiencies, even after years, Medicaid may terminate funding altogether.

Long-term Effect

While there is a decline in qualified caregiver staff, there is also a growing increase in the need for long-term care, and that trend will continue to grow. In fact, The Wisconsin Department of Health Services estimates that the population of Wisconsin residents reaching age 85 and older will increase by 112 percent over the next 20 years. An estimated 88 percent of those are projected to suffer from dementia, and approximately 33,880 may develop some type of mental or physical disability that will require more caregiver support.

The long-term effect of a continued decline of qualified healthcare direct workers may result in some of the following issues:

  • Continued vacancies will either lead to insufficient staffing or fewer resident openings to enable facilities to continue to meet minimum staffing requirements
  • The continued closure of more nursing homes
  • Decreased quality of care for nursing home residents and a higher risk for instances of abuse or neglect due to staff that are stressed or overworked

When To Contact a Trusted Attorney

If your loved one has suffered abuse or neglect in a nursing home or assisted living facility, we strongly recommend that you report the incident. After contacting 9-1-1 or the adult services hotline to ensure there is an official record of the incident, we recommend you contact our office for legal advice.

AT PKSD Law, we are prepared to help protect the legal rights of your loved one and pursue maximum compensation for his or her suffering. We offer a free consultation with one of our qualified Wisconsin nursing home abuse attorneys at zero obligation to you. If you have a case and we represent you, there are no upfront fees. We do not get paid our fees unless you receive compensation.

Call our firm to set up your free consultation today: 414-333-3333

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