For months, nursing homes have complained about their inability to recruit entry level staff while competing with other types of employers able to offer better wages and more attractive benefits like telecommuting.

In return, they’ve received little public sympathy from regulators.

But last week, it was the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ turn to face the music.

At a hearing ostensibly on the president’s proposed 2024 Health and Human Services budget, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), a doctor himself, spent nearly six minutes drilling Health and Human Services Sec. Xavier Becerra on the department’s telework policies.

You, dear reader, may be frustrated, maybe even a bit jealous, every time you hear of another friend or colleague who has landed a telework job, or been told a position that was made remote during the pandemic will now stay that way for the most part.

From the looks of an empty parking lot in Woodlawn, MD, lots of people at CMS may be taking advantage of such a change.

It’s a hard pill to swallow for those who show up at their nursing home jobs every day, especially given the health risks of the last three years and the crushingly long hours often needed to make up for staff shortages.

But here’s the rub: CMS is down hundreds of workers, and to recruit nurses, economists and plenty of other staffers, the agency is advertising dozens of positions with remote work options.

Someone at the agency clearly believes offering telecommuting flexibility is the best way to compete in today’s job market.

But it’s an odd juxtaposition.

Policies that allow telework do, in fact, entice future employees. Offering that huge benefit is a basic recognition that that is what today’s workers want. Flexibility is a core determinant for so many looking to change jobs or upgrade with unemployment remaining near record lows.

But where telecommuting might work for CMS office staff (Cassidy’s concerns about productivity and accountability aside), it can’t for the vast majority of nursing home positions.

And yet, nursing homes face the same factors as CMS: They’re trying to hire nurses and others who want more flexible schedules — people who will gladly accept jobs in different settings that might be able to give them that.

Let’s hope everyone at CMS takes last week’s case of being called on the carpet as a reminder of the challenges and sometimes unfair expectations nursing homes are facing. Yes, they need to fill their ranks, and they’re offering more money where they can, but given the cultural shift that happened at breakneck speed since COVID’s start, it’s slim pickings.

Slapping a proscriptive staffing minimum on providers whose jobs most often require 40-hour-per-week in-person shifts won’t fill up those employee parking lots any faster.

Kimberly Marselas is senior editor of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.

Opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News are not necessarily those of McKnight’s.