Difficulties finding and retaining workers continue to plague long-term care operators more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest data from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care. 

A new NIC survey of skilled nursing and senior living operators found that 68% of organizations reported staffing shortages at the properties between March 22 and April 4. The findings were included in NIC’s latest Executive Survey, which includes responses from executives of 64, small, medium and large providers across the United States. 

Four out of five organizations during the same timeframe also reported relying on staffing agencies or temporary workers to meet their workforce needs, which is a new high. A November survey found that two-thirds of long-term care executives said they were using outside resources to fill vacancies. 

Additionally, 97% of the operators said they’re paying staff overtime hours. That’s a new peak from its previous high of 92% which was reported in late December by executives. 

The ongoing workforce struggles came as operators experienced an improvement in the pace of move-ins between late March and early April. 

The nursing care segment reported the largest upward changes in occupancy rates with 32% reporting rises of 5% to 10%, while 90% respondents cited increased resident demand as the reason for recent accelerations in move-ins.

“On one hand, the market fundamentals continue to show signals of progress due to the availability and widespread distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine among America’s seniors — on the other hand, staffing challenges and wage pressures are continuing to put strain on [net operating income] for many operators,” NIC Senior Principal Lana Peck said in a blog post.