Doctors shaking hands at meeting.

Approximately 46% (45.9%) of respondents to a recent survey by speciality investment bank Ziegler said that they are using staffing from agencies less than they were a year ago.

“While we acknowledge that the staffing crisis is not even close from being over, we can share that we are seeing signs of healing,” Ziegler Director of Senior Living Research and Development Lisa McCracken wrote in the latest “Senior Living Finance Z-News” e-newsletter.

Although agencies have helped providers that are experiencing severe staffing shortages and high turnover exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the decline in usage is good news for the industry, McCracken pointed out, because “agency expenses are significantly higher than standard pay for fully employed staff and have been a key driver behind expense pressures in our sector.”

Organizations that have reduced their reliance on agency staff have consciously worked toward doing so by raising wages significantly and increasing benefits for employees, she said. “Some have even formed their own internal staffing agencies, a strategy most commonly deployed among larger organizations with multiple sites in a certain market or region,” McCracken added.

For more than 20% (21.7%) of poll participants, however, the use of agency staffing remains about the same as it was a year ago. And almost another 20% (19.9%) said they are using agency staffing more than they were a year ago. Almost 13% (12.6%) of respondents said they never had to use agency staff.

“While this is rare, there are indeed some providers in certain markets who have been able to sustain with their own staff throughout the past three years,” McCracken said.

The recent Ziegler CFO Hotline poll had approximately 230 participants, she told McKnight’s Senior Living. Respondents primarily work for not-for-profit organizations, with poll-takers “more heavily weighted” toward continuing care retirement / life plan communities, although financial professionals at freestanding assisted living and memory care communities and nursing homes also are represented in the results, McCracken said.