Half of respondents to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care’s “Wave 30” survey said this summer that attracting community and caregiving staff was the biggest challenge their organizations were facing nearly a year and a half into the pandemic. 

Fully 90% reported acute staffing shortages and four out of five organizations with multiple properties reported staffing shortages a 20 points worse than they did just one month prior.

The toll continued to mount for many providers. Nearly 80% of those polled by OnShift cited stress and burnout as the top personal challenge facing employees.

“When COVID hit, staffing shortage issues accelerated with current team members becoming ill and having to quarantine, leaving remaining staff to do everything they could to fill in the gaps,” added Kendra Nicastro, director of business development for LeaderStat. 

Occupational stress’ evil twin — trauma — only serves to pile on to infection fears, loss of family and friends and exhaustion, “leaving many to choose to leave the bedside altogether,” added Trish Richardson, Relias’ director of post-acute care solutions.

Mounting worker health and well-being concerns affect close to one of every two nurses, said OnShift Executive Vice President Peter Corless. Growing financial worries have become a chief recruitment and retention challenge, added Richardson.

“Salaries and benefits have increased due to staff shortages and we are unlikely to see a return to pre-pandemic pay levels any time soon,” said Martha Abercrombie, manager of product marketing at HealthcareSource.

Workers may scramble for payday loans after losing their short-lived COVID bonuses, said Corless, whose company doled out more than $29 million in early pay via the company’s financial software during the first six months of 2021. Still, this is an industry with seemingly boundless optimism.

Some HR experts have seen an uptick in CNAs enrolling in career advancement programs, while freelancers pursue shift work.

“All staff need to know they are valued and appreciated and will have the resources needed to do their jobs (safely),” Nicastro said.