Opinion: We Can Howl About Staffing Challenges, Or Start Fixing Them

 In Nurses Weekly

The government’s promise to impose federal staffing standards could happen any day now. Talk about staffing challenges.

This pending mandate has the provider community on edge. For a couple of good reasons.

One is that little matter of how to prep for the heightened table stakes.

Another, related concern, is that the directive is arriving while nurses are becoming increasingly scarce.

In some ways, RNs divesting themselves of their careers is actually the more ominous concern. Those actions are far different than pending rules that can be delayed, reduced or perhaps even rejected. No, nurses are leaving, period. And the reality becomes more obvious by the day.

For the latest proof, please direct your attention to a fresh analysis by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

Roughly 100,000 RNs have left the field since the arrival of COVID-19, authors found. Worse, still, is that another 900,000 are likely to depart by 2027.

If anything close to that million nurse march plays out, long-term care won’t have to deal with a staffing challenge. It will have to deal with a staffing nightmare.

The report’s authors pointed to stress and burnout as key defection catalysts. There’s little doubt that’s true. But I think there is another factor at play in long-term care.

It’s one that tends to get overlooked: The all-too-common dysfunctional relationship that exists between administrators and DONs. And here, it must be said, it’s the administrators who are largely to blame.

In far too many facilities, DONs are not getting the tools or support they need to do their jobs, much less grow.

At the NADONA show in June, I will be joining some leading DONs and TJ Griffin from PharMerica, for what promises to be a lively podcast. We hope to explore the challenges in this often fractured partnership — and propose ways to fix it. (Full disclosure, PharMerica is sponsoring this presentation.)

We don’t simply want to hold a gripe session — although it’s a safe bet that a few of those will be shared. Rather, we are hoping to raise awareness among administrations about ways to mend and improve the working relationship they have with DONs.

We will air a recording of the podcast in July, so please look for it. I think you’ll find it’s a real eye-opener. More to the point, it might just help improve your staffing situation.

And it’s probably safe to say this field is going to need all the staffing help it can get.

  • John O’Connor is editorial director for McKnight’s.

(This story originally appeared McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.)

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