Lowering the bar: nursing shortage impacts senior assisted living

Lowering the bar: nursing shortage impacts senior assisted living
A caregiver helps move a assisted living member down a hallway; Source: KFDA
A senior citizen takes part in activities at his nursing home; Source: KFDA
A senior citizen takes part in activities at his nursing home; Source: KFDA
Senior citizens move about their living facility; Source: CBS News
Senior citizens move about their living facility; Source: CBS News

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - The Texas Panhandle's large population of older residents could be impacted due to a nursing shortage facing the entire country.

Certified Nursing Assistants are in high demand across the country due to a high turnover rate.

According to the Texas Health Care Association in just a five-year span, 50% of workers in nursing homes were no longer in the industry.

"I think the largest factors is low pay, they are paid extremely low wages for a job that is incredibly demanding," said long term care Ombudsman Kathryn English.

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English helps oversee nearly 40 area nursing homes.

She believes that when workers transfer between facilities it is helping to increase the turnover rate.

"They really move between facilities a lot," said English. "I think that's motivated either by pay, or just environment they are in, they're looking for something different."

English has seen rural communities as some of the hardest hit. That stems from rising medical costs and nurses moving to larger metro areas.
 
"They're just not able to support that number of staff," said English. "I think that's just compounded by being in a rural area."

High turnover can affect the individualized care patients receive.

"They are not given that opportunity to connect with residents in a way that would largely improve their care," said English. "[They can't go] off of what [the person] would like and their preferences and choice."

Professor at Amarillo College's West Campus Michele Rupe remembers being in the health field.

"Not only is it physically demanding, it is emotionally wrenching," said Rupe.

Former students tell the professor how once they enter the field and get 'their feet wet', they want to expand their education.

"They can learn to pass medications, be a medication aid or LVN, RN, moving on up the chain," said Rupe.

Rupe says a lot of times people will leave the industry after someone they have cared for passes away.

"Often times that's why they let their certification go, cause of somebody special, they got their feelings hurt," said Rupe.

Healthcare will always be an important part of the workplace and will always require specialized skills and a huge workforce. With the aging population of baby boomers it will only become more important.

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