A registered nurse helps a nursing home resident with his medications
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A top wage expert urged skilled nursing providers to be more flexible with shift hours and reward loyalty to their registered nurses in order to stay competitive against other healthcare sectors after new data showed that SNFs were among the lowest paying industries for RNs. 

The updated data was published Friday by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care. The analysis specifically looked at jobs in the skilled nursing and housing sectors by using federal employment pattern data through May 2021 and then compared the information to other healthcare industries. 

Data showed that registered nurses comprise 9.3% of the sector’s total employment. In comparison, they make up 31.3% of total employees at general medical and surgical hospitals; 11.5% in home health care services; and 3.6% for assisted living facilities and continuing care retirement communities. 

General medical and surgical hospitals were also the highest paying healthcare industry for RNs with an hourly mean wage of $40.88. Skilled nursing was the second-lowest paying healthcare industry with a $34.74 mean hourly wage for RNs. That’s 12.07%, or $5.04, below the U.S. average wage for RNs. The hourly mean wage for RNs in seniors housing was $32.59. 

“Other than registered nurses, skilled nursing and senior housing wage rates were somewhat competitive compared with the U.S. average wages and other healthcare industries,” NIC senior data analyst Omar Zahraoui wrote Friday. “This suggests that workforce attraction and retention are more about a mix of other factors than just workers’ pay.”

The shortage of RNs within the long-term care sector means the industry has to compete with wages in order to attract new workers, explained D. Matthew Leach, principal and senior consultant for Total Compensation Solutions. 

“Luckily many of these organizations are able to retain the current RNs so they don’t have to recruit new RNs,” he told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Monday. 

In order to retain RNs, organizations can offer flexible hours and reward tenure through additional paid time off and possible stay bonuses.

He also called on providers to “offer market adjustments to your RNs, especially high performers, to ensure you retain top performers [and] offer spot bonuses to RN to help the pay position.

“Then hopefully over time, operators will become competitive with the local market,” he said.