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Nursing homes in neighborhoods experiencing socioeconomic deprivation could find it challenging to sufficiently staff their facilities, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

The cross-sectional study used 2018 daily payroll-based staffing records and address data for 12,609 nursing homes in the United States linked with resident assessment data. The purpose of the study was to assess the relationship between neighborhood socioeconomic deprivation and nursing home staffing in the United States.

“Significant staffing disparities were observed within facilities located in severely deprived neighborhoods. Targeted interventions, including workforce recruitment and retention efforts, may be needed to improve staffing levels for nursing homes in deprived neighborhoods,” wrote researchers Jason R. Falvey DPT, PhD; Erinn M. Hade, PhD; Steven Friedman, MS, and colleagues.

Staffing rates within severely deprived neighborhoods were 30% lower for registered nurses and 5% lower for certified nursing assistants than they were in facilities in more affluent neighborhoods. The researchers observed no disparities in licensed practical nurse staffing. 

The results jibe with an interactive web tool developed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that calculated life expectancy based on the ZIP code of where an individual was raised. The tool showed that people living just a few blocks apart may have vastly different opportunities for longevity.

“There is a connection between the economics of a neighborhood and the likelihood of having poor health outcomes which, in turn, increases the risk of institutionalization. In facilities located in under-resourced communities, it is more likely that staffing may be negatively affected,” Ilene Warner-Maron, PhD, RN-BC, NHA, wrote this month in the Annals of Long-Term Care. 

“We need to draw our attention to the impact of economics on the health of our fellow citizens as well as staffing at facilities which care for medically complex individuals,” Warner-Maron added.