Nursing homes are facing a severe workforce crisis that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent survey by the American Health Care Association (AHCA), 94% of nursing homes report a shortage of staff and 75% report that staffing shortages have worsened since 2020. To cope with this situation, many nursing homes are relying on agency staffing, which refers to the use of temporary or contract workers from external sources.
Agency staffing can provide some benefits for nursing homes, such as filling in gaps, reducing overtime costs, and increasing flexibility. Agency staff can also bring new skills, perspectives, and diversity to the workplace. However, agency staffing also poses some challenges and risks for nursing homes, such as higher costs, lower quality of care, and reduced staff loyalty. Agency staff may lack familiarity with the facility’s policies, procedures, and culture, and may have less commitment and accountability to the organization. Agency staff may also experience lower job satisfaction and higher turnover rates than regular staff.
Therefore, nursing homes need to be strategic and careful when using agency staffing. Some best practices include:
- Establishing clear objectives and expectations. Nursing homes should define the goals and scope of agency staffing, such as the number, type, and duration of workers needed. They should also communicate the expectations and standards for agency staff, such as performance, behavior, and communication.
- Selecting reputable and reliable agencies. Nursing homes should conduct due diligence and background checks on the agencies they work with, and verify their credentials, reputation, and track record. They should also negotiate fair and transparent contracts that specify the terms and conditions of the service.
- Integrating and supporting agency staff. Nursing homes should provide adequate orientation and training for agency staff, and assign them mentors or buddies to help them adjust. They should also involve agency staff in team meetings, feedback sessions, and recognition programs. They should also monitor and evaluate the performance and satisfaction of agency staff.
In conclusion, agency staffing is a growing trend in nursing homes that can offer both challenges and short term solutions. Nursing homes need to be strategic and careful when using agency staffing, and follow best practices to ensure optimal outcomes for both the organization, their residents, and the workers. Nursing Homes are having to compete with unregulated price gouging by agencies that make it increasingly difficult to retain and recruit new talent. The government should either increase reimbursement to compensate for the 70% mark up on hourly wages or implement policies that cap the % increase that agencies are able to charge above fair market value. Either way, something needs to change.