Are staffing shortages forcing you to turn away new patients?

Staffing shortages in the skilled nursing industry have far-reaching effects. From higher staff burnout and low CMS Staffing Star ratings to reduced revenue and an over-reliance on overtime, the complications of nurse shortages seem like they’re never-ending. One major impact of nursing home staffing shortages, however, is the fact that it’s causing skilled nursing facilities to turn away new patients. In May 2023, the American Health Care Association (AHCA) and National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) reported that 52% of nursing homes were limiting new patients due to staffing shortages.2

Lower Revenue

It’s a vicious cycle that’s difficult for nursing homes to escape. Fewer patients mean lower revenue and lower revenue means more difficulty hiring staff. In an industry with already-tight margins, lower revenue can make or break a nursing home. In May 2023, more than 72% of facilities reported that they were concerned about having to shutter their operations due to staffing concerns.2 In a 2020 national survey conducted by AHCA/NCAL, 55% of nursing home respondents said they were operating at a loss, and 89% of nursing homes said they were operating with a profit margin of 3% or less.3 Although nursing home occupancy has been slowly recovering to pre-pandemic levels4, long-term care has never been an industry with large margins, and it’s predicted that skilled nursing facilities’ profit margins will shrink even further over the next four years due to the nursing labor shortage and inflation.5

Looming Staffing Mandates

Although the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services haven’t yet announced the hotly anticipated federal staffing mandate, a national analysis finds that many U.S. nursing homes would fail to meet the predicted standard. McKnight’s Long-Term Care News reports, “A national analysis finds that more than half of U.S. nursing homes would not meet a daily, 3.5-hour nurse staffing requirement and just 29% would meet a standard of 4.0 hours.”1 Some predictions indicate that CMS will require 4.1 hours of direct care per resident per day, which would cripple the nursing home industry with current staffing challenges. Although 45 states and Washington, DC, have their own minimum staffing requirements, only the District of Columbia requires 4.1 hours.

If nursing homes are struggling with lower revenue as a result of turning away patients, hiring permanent staff will be more of a challenge. According to AHCA/NCAL, nearly 82% of nursing homes say that their current financial situation is a moderately big or extremely big obstacle in hiring new staff.2 Furthermore, 38% of nurses cited better pay as a reason for changing work settings, surpassed only by dissatisfaction with management.6

Pressure on the Healthcare System

The wider impact of nursing homes turning away patients is that it puts pressure on the healthcare system at large. When skilled nursing facilities turn away patients, it can lead to bottlenecks at hospitals as seniors being discharged might not have a place to go to continue their recovery. This means that hospitals that need to free up beds aren’t able to, and seniors aren’t able to access the care they need. Hospitals that have come to rely on particular nursing homes as the next stop for their elderly patients may become hesitant to refer patients knowing that beds are likely unavailable.

What can we do to solve this problem today?

Using a platform staffing partner can help you avoid turning away patients. Gale Healthcare Solutions is a leading platform serving the long-term care and senior care industry. With more than 65,000 clinicians across 40 states, we’re ready to step in and provide the staffing support you need to keep your occupancy levels up. We can meet a wide variety of needs – from per diem to permanent positions. Find out why so many healthcare providers choose Gale. Contact us HERE for more information about how we can provide an efficient, flexible, high-quality solution to your staffing challenges.