Nursing Assistants in SNFs Struggle With Low Wages, Poverty

Nursing assistants who work in institutional care settings haven’t gotten a material raise over the last 10 years and largely work part-time — two statistics that may be contributing to an overall workforce shortage, according to a new report.

More than half of nursing assistants in nursing homes work part time and take home one cent less per hour than they did in 2006 — $12.34 last year as compared to $12.35 a decade before — the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI) found.

“This means that while goods and services increased in price, the purchasing power of nursing assistant wages was static,” PHI observed in its analysis.


The Bronx, N.Y.-based research and consulting agency also found 17% of all nursing assistants live below the federal poverty line; for comparison, just 7% of the overall U.S. workforce have incomes under that benchmark. With median earnings of about $20,000 per year, 39% of nursing assistants use some type of public assistance, and 14% do not have health insurance of their own.

Despite the low pay, PHI found that nursing assistants have demanding roles, interacting with residents more than other SNF employees and facing a risk of on-the-job injury that’s three times greater than that of the average American worker.

PHI framed the wage issue as a key workforce development problem, pointing out that 59,000 more nursing assistant jobs will be created between 2014 and 2024, while the number of U.S. adults older than 65 will jump from 47.8 million in 2015 to 88 million by 2050.


“The poor quality of nursing assistant jobs makes it difficult for nursing homes to attract and retain enough workers to meet demand,” PHI noted.

The findings were part of PHI’s regular analysis of data on direct care workers, which also include home health caregivers.

“Despite the profound support they offer to millions of older people and people with disabilities nationwide, direct care workers remain undervalued and poorly compensated,” PHI president Jodi Sturgeon said in a statement announcing the results. “Our country needs to improve wages and hours, provide more training and career paths, and implement workforce innovations that transform this sector — improving care for all of us.”

Written by Alex Spanko

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