Despite — or more likely because of — rare pandemic conditions, nursing home top managers and nurse leaders enjoyed significant salary jumps this year. That’s according to results of the industry’s largest annual salary survey, which were released Friday. 

The increases are a sign of the times and show the impact industry-wide staffing shortages are having on operators, according to one expert. 

“It’s pretty amazing, the increases for what we’re seeing in the past year,” Matt Leach, principal and senior consultant with Total Compensation Solutions, told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Friday. “There are jobs that are up 6%, 7%, even 8% year-over-year. It’s just wild. You don’t see that during normal times.” 

The national average salary for nursing home administrators jumped 2.9% to $120,695 in 2021, while assistant administrators realized a 2.27% jump to $74,294. 

Salaries for directors of nursing rose to an average of $105,104 (a 3.09% increase) and assistant DONs reached $80,$364 or a 3.36% increase. 

All figures were reported in the 44th annual HCS Nursing Home Salary & Benefits Report, published by Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service (HCS), with support from LeadingAge and the American Health Care Association. 

The biggest salary jumps were enjoyed by nursing home certified nurse aides, in response to staffing demands caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

National average hourly rates for CNAs increased 7.13% to $15.23 in 2021 after seeing a 3.12% increase a year earlier. Non-certified nursing aides saw the biggest increase (7.98%), to $12.60 per hour. 

Turnover for CNAs also increased significantly to 51.4% in 2021, compared to 39.4% in 2020. The national turnover rate for all nursing home employees was 38.7%, up from the 2020 rate of 35.4%. 

“It just really speaks to the labor market right now and how there’s a shortage of employees, especially on the healthcare side,” Leach said. 

He also stressed the importance of having this data for skilled nursing operators. He said they need to be aware of movements in the market and the pay rates that are needed to attract and keep workers. 

“The hardest part about this is with these salary movements, and with the current market, it’s almost that you have to pay these rates just to be able to play ball. If you’re looking to really retain people and attract new people, this is the starting point,” Leach said. 

“They need to keep pace and they need to continually move their salary structure so it can accommodate the changing market, so they’ll be able to not only attract new people but also retain the current individuals,” he added. 

The full report includes data from 1,613 nursing homes, covering more than 147,900 employees. It’s available for purchase from the HCS website