Staffing in the healthcare industry has been hit hard by the challenges of the past few years. Although the worst is most likely behind us, several sectors still have quite a ways to go to build up their staff to the levels they need.

According to recent reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Investment Center For Seniors Housing and Care, skilled nursing and related care professions still face a challenging labor market. As of the most recent jobs report, the industry remains approximately 220,200 jobs below its pre-pandemic levels. This indicates an ongoing tension where high demand comes up against a shrinking pool of available, qualified, and interested talent – and unlike with some other challenging industries, the situation in healthcare doesn’t look like it’s changing anytime soon.

In particular, the industry is continuing to see a tight labor market when it comes to essential roles such as nursing staff and aides, who make up the “core” of the skilled nursing niche. While every region in the U.S. is struggling, NIC’s data shows one region that appears to be an outlier. That would be the Midwest, the sole region that runs above the national average in terms of staffing shortages for both nursing staff and aides. As of September 2022, 29.4% of skilled nursing properties reported nursing staff shortages (the national average was 20.8%), and 30.9% reported aide shortages, almost 10 points over the national average of 21.6%.

Occupancy also seems to be a notable indicator of how significant staffing shortages are. In NIC surveys, locations with under 80% occupancy rates ran above national averages for shortages of both staff and aides, while higher occupancy rates correlated with fewer shortages. On the other hand, smaller properties have tended to have worse shortages than large ones.

Within these numbers are buried several smaller trends that continue to affect healthcare organizations looking to boost their numbers back up. Throughout the past few years, healthcare workers across all sectors have faced enormous pressures, both at work and in the public eye, and many have reached a point of burnout. Others are still planning on staying in the profession, but they need adjustments, like higher wages, more flexibility, or better familial support policies, in order to accept a job.

For healthcare organizations today, staffing is a particularly complicated process. With the right insights and a smart recruiting strategy, though, finding the right people is absolutely within reach.


By Tom Zeleny, NHA