Lisa McCracken headshot
Lisa McCracken, Ziegler director of senior living research

The pandemic shows no signs of going away any time soon, but companies still must focus on strategic goals in 2022, according to specialty investment bank Ziegler.

The pandemic is but one spoke on the wheel and not the entire wheel itself, according to the company.

“The point is, it is important that an organization’s strategic progress not repeatedly be stymied by operational barriers and distractions,” Lisa McCracken, Ziegler’s senior director of senior living research and development, recently wrote in a company e-newsletter.

Workforce challenges are affecting almost everyone in long-term care, and companies must put recruitment and retention at the top of their goals, she said.

“Navigating the workforce focus will require a financial commitment (increased wages, meaningful benefits), creativity, strong partners to help fill the staffing pipeline and stamina for the long haul,” McCracken wrote.

The skilled nursing sector needed to be re-evaluated and redefined even before the pandemic erupted in 2020, she said. 

“The pandemic took away the ability to continue as-is and is forcing us to think

differently about how we provide care to the frailest of those we serve,” McCracken wrote.

Lessons learned from the pandemic illustrate the need to make long-term care more appealing to consumers, she said. Operators must look at the aesthetics of the facility and make it warm and inviting, and they need to be ready to offer not only basic care but to offer the choices and amenities that incoming residents want. Additionally, according to McCracken, care facilities should be attractive to potential workers, not drive them away. 

“Embrace the change being forced on us, and do not be afraid to reinvent. Skilled nursing is not going away, but it will look different moving forward,” McCracken wrote.

McCracken advised company leaders to diversify their services. It is not uncommon these days, she said, for nursing homes to also offer pharmacy services, third-party management companies and even staffing agencies. 

“Not all of these diverse service lines may open up the financial flood gates, but they can have many secondary benefits for your brand and overall mission advancement,” she wrote.

Many organizations are looking at collaborations to keep afloat in the current economy, McCracken added.

“Evaluating the pros/cons is a healthy exercise to undertake, even for the strongest of organizations,” she said.

Access to low-cost capital for tax-exempt borrowers looks good in this new year, McCracken said, adding that institutional investors and bank lenders alike remain committed to the sector and support established, strong borrowers.