COVID-19 had a massive impact on nursing homes. Despite being less than 1% of the US population, 20% of COVID-19 related deaths in the country were nursing home residents. It makes sense; nursing homes have elderly residents with special health needs living in close quarters with one another. Infection control isn’t a new problem, either; 1 to 3 million serious infections occur every year in skilled nursing facilities, killing hundreds of thousands of people.
What makes COVID-19 so damaging, then? Throughout the pandemic, nursing leaders found that communicating and implementing new policies were among the top challenges they faced. During these first 2 years of the pandemic, 4 in 5 US nurses experienced PPE shortages. Many felt unsafe reusing PPE as recommended to them. Over 2,000 nursing home caregivers have died from coronavirus.
Nurse Shortage And Its Impact On Infection Control
Nurses are key to infection control, yet they’re leaving the profession in droves. Since January 2020, roughly 236,000 caregivers have left. That is 15% of the nation’s nursing home workforce. This is part of a broader trend in healthcare professions; almost 90% of healthcare organizations are experiencing a staffing shortage. High stress, high risk, low pay, and long hours are all reasons behind nurses’ departure. As more caregivers leave, the caregivers who remain are left with heavier burdens to carry, causing a doom spiral to form.
Without proper staffing and resources, nursing homes sit on the brink. More than 300 nursing homes have closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, 400 more nursing homes are on the threshold of closing their doors. Most facilities are losing money, on average operating at a margin of negative 4.8% each year. Without relief, 1 in 4 of the country’s nursing homes may close by 2025. This happens at the same time as the US population gets older.