The pandemic has affected every healthcare sector in one way or another, but few industries have been touched to a greater extent than the Skilled Nursing Industry. From sweeping governmental healthcare reform to widespread facility closures, it's safe to say that the pandemic has had a monumental impact on SNFs. If you want to know more about how the pandemic has impacted SNFs, keep reading. We’re going to cover just that.
The Nurse Staffing Shortage
The nurse staffing shortage is one of the most significant consequences of the pandemic. The fallout from the COVID-19 virus (excessive demand for healthcare, burnout amongst nurses, etc.) inspired many nurses and other healthcare professionals to quit their jobs. In addition, many nurses who were already on their way to retirement simply decided to leave the workforce early. These factors lead to a nationwide nursing shortage. As you might imagine, this shortage has made it difficult for SNFs to retain enough staff to care for their residents.
Many SNFs have turned to nurse staffing agencies to help fill the void, but that hasn't been enough. Finding capable nurses has proven to be a challenging feat, as many SNFs can’t afford the expensive compensation packages nurses are demanding. It goes without saying that the nurse staffing shortageis still a real problem for healthcare facilities.
SNF Admissions Decline Sharply
Another significant impact of the pandemic has been the decline in resident admissions. At the start of the pandemic, people were understandably afraid of contracting COVID-19, and many chose to cancel or postpone their SNF admissions. As a result, hundreds of SNFs were forced to close their doors due to a lack of business. Admissions have begun to rebound in some areas, but they are still relatively low compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Governmental Aid Helped SNFs and Then Fizzled Out
For a while, SNFs were able to weather the financial fallout from the pandemic with the help of governmental aid from Medicare and Medicaid. However, that aid has since gone away, and SNFs are again feeling the financial crunch. This is especially true for SNFs that were already struggling before the pandemic hit. Many of these SNFs will not be able to survive without additional aid, which means that we can expect to see even more SNF closures in the near future.
Nurse Wages are High
One of the most surprising impacts of the pandemic on SNFs has been the exponential increase in nurse wages, with traveling nurses making more than $100 per hour. At a time when skilled nursing facilities were already struggling financially, nurses were seeing their salaries go up. This was due in part to the nursing shortage that we mentioned earlier. With so few nurses available, healthcare facilities were willing to pay top dollar for nurses.
Those wages are now coming down, which translates to some financial relief for skilled nursing facilities. But even with the pay cuts among healthcare workers, some nurses still demand higher salaries than SNFs can afford.
Worsening Nursing Home Reputation
The pandemic has also had a negative impact on nursing homes' reputations, which weren't pristine, to begin with. The media has been filled with stories of SNF residents contracting COVID-19 and dying. According to CMS data, there were 1,136,796 resident COVID-19 cases and 154,250 resident COVID deaths. As a result, some people have come to see SNFs as places to be avoided at all costs. This is especially true for people with elderly loved ones who need long-term care. The negative publicity has made it even harder for SNFs to attract new residents and stay in business.
White House Reform Targeting Poorly Run Nursing Homes
In response to the SNF inefficiencies and dangers highlighted by the pandemic, the Biden administration announced a set of reforms targeting poorly run nursing homes in early 2022.
The goal of these reforms is to improve the quality of care in SNFs and protect residents from abuse and neglect. The reforms include stricter penalties for SNFs that violate federal regulations, increased transparency around facility deficiencies, and funding for facilities that exceed performance requirements. Visit to learn more about the reforms on the horizon.
As you may have gathered, the pandemic has had a profound and far-reaching impact on SNFs. From the nurse staffing shortage to declining admissions, SNFs have been hit hard. The good news is that some SNFs are beginning to rebound, though many more will close without substantial aid. Only time will tell what the future holds for SNFs in the wake of the pandemic, but we’re hoping for the best.