More than half of unvaccinated nursing home workers plan to find a job where COVID-19 vaccines are not required following the issuance of a federal mandate, according to a new survey likely to reinforce providers’ biggest fears. 

The OnShift survey of more than 2,100 long-term care employees released on Friday found just 8% of unvaccinated respondents plan on receiving the vaccine. Additionally, 39% are unsure of how the vaccine mandate will impact their employment status.

The survey also revealed that 38% of employees have yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, while 57% have. 

“These survey results showcase exactly what we have feared,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, said in a statement. “Nursing homes cannot afford to lose any more caregivers without threatening access to long-term care for our residents. It is critical that the administration expand the vaccine requirement to include all healthcare providers and prevent a mass exodus of nursing home staff.”

Other industry stakeholders believe COVID vaccine mandates could ultimately lead to a decrease in the number of workers leaving, when executed correctly and if more operators and providers join in. An 180-bed Pennsylvania facility was able to limit turnover to less than 7% through a variety of vaccine uptake activities with employees.

While sometimes expecting substantial losses, other facilities have reported few workers actually leave come mandate deadlines. Jewish Home Family in New Jersey, saw five of 527 workers at its nursing home and assisted living facilities quit, while at Westminster Village in Bloomington, IL, only two out of 250 chose not to get vaccinated, according to an Associated Press report. 

LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan in late July said operators that issue a mandate with sufficient lead time — combined with education, answering questions about the vaccine and explaining the benefits — could lead to more workers being willing to get vaccinated.

“We believe that as more healthcare providers mandate vaccines, the probability of employees resigning will decline,” she said.