Tired healthcare worker

A workforce-focused survey of Texas assisted living community and nursing home providers highlights the “urgent need” for state lawmakers to address severe workforce shortages in long-term care.

The Texas Health Care Association and LeadingAge Texas surveyed more than 120 organizations and found that since the start of the pandemic, the state’s long-term care providers have experienced a 12% decline in employment, all have vacancies for direct care staff members and 30% are limited move-ins due to chronic staffing shortages.

“Long-term care has been plagued by a workforce shortage for years. The impact of this pandemic on residents and staff has made a challenging situation dire,” THCA President and CEO Kevin Warren said. “We can’t look away. We need to ensure the services are there for the families that rely on us, and the Texas Legislature has a role to play in that.”

All of the respondents — 33 assisted living communities and 210 nursing homes — reported openings for certified nurse aides (1,844 vacancies), 94% said they have unfilled openings for licensed vocational nurses (602 vacancies), 22% said they need registered nurses (293 vacancies) and 90% said they have dietary, laundry and housekeeping position to fill (784 vacancies).

To compensate, 76% of the long-term care providers participating in the poll said they are using more overtime pay and double shifts than they did a year ago. Of the 61% who reported using temporary staffing agencies, 28% said that those requests went unmet.

Providers gave a variety of reasons for staff vacancies, including not being able to compete with other employers (70%), having no applicants (63%) or having no qualified applicants (54%). Other common responses included staff member departures for higher-paying staffing agency jobs or resignations because of vaccination mandates.

Respondents reported a collective 1,358 employee resignations and 1,403 new hires for August.

“The environment providers are operating in today isn’t sustainable,” LeadingAge Texas President and CEO George Linial said. “Texas cannot continue to kick this can down the road. A strong commitment and investment by lawmakers will pay huge dividends for the people we serve.”

The results build on an earlier survey from the two organizations showing that staffing budgets increased by 25%, on average, creating a financial strain on communities; 75% of communities reported operating at a loss.

The Texas Health Care Association is the state affiliate of the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, which recently released the results of its own survey, in which 61% of assisted living respondents said that workforce issues might force them to close.