Navigating the COVID-19 Staffing Crisis in Long-Term Care Facilities

Tami Hammer, RN
Director of Nursing
Southern Hills Skilled Nursing & Rehab

As a result of the ongoing COVID pandemic, staffing shortages in long-term care facilities across the country have quickly converted from a once manageable problem into a crisis. For many years, long-term care facilities and assisted living communities have been faced with challenges surrounding scarce staffing. When COVID began entering nursing homes in early-mid 2020, staffing numbers for both nurses and aides took their first big plunge resulting in percentages even lower than before. Research has indicated a multitude of reasons for the rapidly declining staffing numbers including concerns over exposure to the virus, decreased census and occupancy levels resulting in unemployment, higher competitive wages, etc. Whatever the reason, long-term care facilities along with the healthcare industry as a whole have been challenged to adapt and overcome in order to ensure adequate care and safety is provided to all.

COVID-Staffing Southern HillsHere at Southern Hills Skilled Nursing & Rehab, our team strives to provide around-the-clock compassionate care that is personalized to meet individualized needs. As we continue to adapt to the ongoing obstacles that present as a result of the pandemic, providing optimal resident care remains our top priority. Focusing on a team approach which includes highly trained physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, aides, therapists and management staff, Southern Hills remains dedicated to assisting our residents in achieving optimal quality of life while providing a safe and supportive environment. Continue reading as we share with you some of the ways that we have adapted to the COVID pandemic challenges.

To be proactive against daily staffing challenges, our team has carefully planned and made adjustments to resident room locations in order to better meet individualized care needs. The collective decision was made to close off “lower traffic” hallways and areas in the building and consolidate resident rooms to a centralized location within the facility. By executing this plan of action earlier this year, we have increased the ability of our staff to care for and meet resident needs while eliminating potential safety concerns. Allocating one nursing station as the primary center of care, visibility of all residents has increased and communication has become more effective between care providers. From the centralized nursing station, all resident rooms/call lights are visible, the activity lounge area is easily accessible and visible, as well as our courtyard patio entryway and exit. Consolidating staff to this area has increased workflow and cooperation of staff giving care. More staff visibility from housekeeping to nursing decreased resident complaints.

The facility staff continue to change and adapt to regulator guidance provided by the CDC and Ohio Department of Health. Southern Hills monitors the vaccination status of both residents and caregivers on a weekly basis, having offered multiple vaccine clinics within the facility to administer both doses of Pfizer and Moderna as well as boosters to any eligible residents or staff.  As of this date, 97% of our current residents and 86% of the Southern Hills staff are fully vaccinated. Our management leaders continue to educate residents, loved ones, and staff on any regulation changes surrounding COVID safety procedures. While staffing obstacles have required us to reach out to outside organizations for agency staffing, we are fortunate to have the same handful of staff returning to the facility for each shift filled. Just as our own staff require time to establish familiarity and relationships with our residents and vice versa, providing this sense of consistency when using supplemental staffing is important to us as it helps to maintain a higher standard of care at Southern Hills.

As we continue to navigate the ongoing staffing crisis surrounding the COVID pandemic, Southern Hills remains committed to carrying out our mission: To Improve the Quality of Life & Health of Those We Serve.  Regardless of length of stay, each resident that enters our facility can expect a person-centered environment in a home-like atmosphere at Southern Hills. We are actively recruiting strong, positive employees to join our team of dedicated healthcare professionals and become a part of our #SouthernStrong family.