Closeup of man on crutches being helped to walk by a physical therapist

Staff competence and professionalism top the list of post-acute care patients’ concerns, followed closely by restored health and independence, a new study has found. 

Researchers from Northwestern University sought to find what matters most to older adults who receive care in skilled nursing settings. They looked at areas shown to impact care quality, including medication, mobility and mental health.

Although the topic has been examined in a number of populations, it hadn’t been studied in the post-acute or skilled nursing facility setting, they said.

To learn more, the researchers conducted phone interviews with 32 patients, one to two weeks after discharge from a facility. Subjects were asked what they valued most and gave open-ended responses. These responses were transcribed and analyzed.

Investigators grouped participants’ statements into three overarching categories, which each revealed several themes, of which concerns about staff was the most prevalent:

  • Staff: kindness and caring; professional competence; timely communication and respect
  • Personal: restored health and independence; safety (including safety metrics, Medicare metrics, and staff followup)
  • Facility: Cleanliness; quality of food (which participants associated with care) 

“Staffing of skilled nursing facilities are key to what matters most to older adults, as [caregiving personnel] are the gateway for older adults to return home in restored health,” said Lee A. Lindquist MD, MPH, MBA, and colleagues.

The findings are notable in light of the current worker shortage in long-term care facilities, the authors said.

“With the staff turnover that has been occurring in the postacute care setting, training and maintaining competent staff has been challenging. More efforts are needed to stimulate interest in long-term nursing careers in the postacute setting,” they concluded.

Full findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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