Workforce crisis: A caretaker’s perspective

By Julie Sulik, RN-BC, CLNC, Vice President of Clinical Services at Southwest LTC Management

Simply put, a seasoned nurse who knows his or her residents’ routines and medical complexities can tackle or even prevent most troubles.

But should you or someone in your family require round-the-clock medical attention in a Texas nursing facility, chances are the caregiver on duty will be new to their job. A full 97 percent of certified nursing aides working in Texas left their jobs last year. The turnover rate for registered nurses tops 90 percent.

The root cause of the problem is no mystery. In Texas, the Medicaid reimbursement rate for Texas nursing homes is less than $6 per hour, per resident. That’s less than what most kids earn mowing lawns. It doesn’t even cover the state’s acknowledged cost of care.

The results of this underfunding are numerous. But for staff like me, it means low wages and high stress as my managers constantly scramble to cover shifts, asking my colleagues and me to pick up extra hours. It creates a frustrating situation for good nurses who care about their residents.

Simply put, high turnover rates mean we can’t spend as much time as we’d like to in direct care. It also means that inexperienced staff are constantly in training.

We know a dedicated staff is key to delivering the kind of long term care you or I would want for our own family. Nurses who can take the time to get to know their residents personally are better able to understand and anticipate a resident’s needs. It’s not that complicated.

Texas has already tried to regulate and penalize its way to improving the quality of its nursing homes. In fact, Texas nursing homes are among the most regulated in the nation. But Texas nursing homes are not among the best in the nation.

The solution to Texas’ long term care workforce crisis is an increase in quality-based funding to allow nurses to be paid what they are worth and enable them to honor our elders with the care they deserve. More regulations and penalties won’t make nurses work harder. We are already working as hard as we can.