Surviving scrutiny

The number of nursing assistant positions is expected to skyrocket by 2024, making up at least 39% of employment growth in the nursing home industry, according to a new report.

An estimated 59,000 new nursing assistant jobs are forecasted to be created between 2014 and 2024, according to a report on the occupation released Tuesday by the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute.

“Because future population growth among older adults is expected to increase dramatically in the coming decades and older adults are more likely than other age groups to receive care in nursing care facilities, employment projections for nursing assistants employed in this industry likely underestimate actual future employment growth,” the report reads.

At the same time, vacancies in nursing assistant positions are on the rise due to poor job quality and pay, according to the report. Four years ago, more than 47,000 nursing assistant positions in skilled nursing facilities went unfilled — more than double the vacancies for registered nursing and licensed professional nurses combined.

Those vacancies were caused in part by a 52% turnover rate among nursing assistants in 2012, likely due to the high rates of injury and low wages associated with the job, according to the report.

Nursing assistants are 3.5 times more likely to be injured on the job than the typical worker, reporting higher rates of sprains, tears, musculoskeletal disorders and back injuries than other occupants.

Nearly 40% of nursing assistants who work in nursing homes rely on some form of public assistance.

“The poor quality of nursing assistant jobs and competition from other industries makes itdifficult to fill these positions,” the report reads. “Rapid growth in the population of older Americans will put even more stress on nursing homes, making it imperative to develop strategies to strengthen and stabilize the workforce.”

A previous report from PHI has described the low pay and poor benefits for nursing assistants to be a “crisis” in need of legislative action.