Historic Staffing Shortages Continue To Force Nursing Homes To Limit New Admissions, Creating Bottlenecks at Hospitals and Reducing Access To Care For Seniors


Nursing homes are facing a historic workforce crisis brought on by the pandemic. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the sector has lost nearly 229,000 caregivers (or more than 14 percent of its workforce) since February 2020, the worst job loss among all health care sectors. The lack of available staff has forced more than 60 percent of nursing homes nationwide to limit new patient admissions – impacting hospitals that are seeking to free up precious beds and preventing seniors from accessing the care they need. 

The Concord Monitor reports that families in New Hampshire have been struggling to find care for their loved ones because of staffing shortages in nursing homes. Despite having open beds for new residents, many facilities do not have enough workers to care for additional residents. In fact, the New Hampshire Health Care Association found that more than half of facilities in the state have had to limit admissions due to staffing shortages. 
In Massachusetts, 1,066 patients from 44 different hospitals are waiting to be discharged – the majority of whom are waiting for nursing homes. Susan Misiorski, vice president of workforce development for the Massachusetts Senior Care Association, said that up to 70 percent of the state’s nursing homes have denied new admissions because they’re short staffed. 

CNN reports that in Washington, 10 percent of patients currently in hospital beds are waiting for a spot at a nursing home or mental health facility, according to the Washington State Hospital Association. In the article, president & CEO of the American Health Care Association (AHCA) Mark Parkinson explains:

"…hospitals just aren't able to discharge people like they typically could. They're calling around to the nursing homes, and the nursing homes are saying we just can't take the patient because we don't have enough employees to take any patients at this time."

As nursing homes refuse to compromise the care provided, similar situations are occurring across the country. Facilities in New York, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Hawaii and Wisconsin, among others, are also limiting admissions due to staffing shortages. And the entire health care system as well as seniors and their families are feeling the domino effect. 

Long term care leaders have been calling on lawmakers to address the workforce crisis by directing resources to help nursing homes invest in their staff and become more competitive employers. The industry has also advocated for staff recruitment and retention programs to attract more nurses and nurse aides to the long term care field. Instead, the Biden Administration is proposing to increase staffing minimums – an unfunded mandate that would inevitably worsen the situation. 

In March 2021, AHCA proposed the Care for Our Seniors Act, a comprehensive nursing home reform plan that included proposals on how to recruit and retain a strong workforce. They include loan forgiveness for new graduates who work in long term care, tax credits for licensed long term care professionals, programs for affordable housing and childcare assistance, and increased subsidies to professionals’ schools whose graduates work in nursing homes for at least five years. But these proposals require support from state and federal policymakers.

With the growing demand for long term care but a national shortage of nurses​, Congress must act now. Meaningful reform and additional funding are essential to building a strong workforce and ensuring our most vulnerable population has access to care for years to come.