More than half of health care workers in nursing homes and assisted living facilities believe that their bosses haven’t done enough to boost their pay to account for the elevated risk of sickness and death during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new survey has found.
About 58% of such respondents to a recent Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation survey said their employers were “falling short” on higher wages for workers in harm’s way; that compares to 59% of hospital workers and 52% of health care staff in offices and clinics.
That contrasts with sunnier sentiment around the availability of sick leave and access to vaccine doses, with vast majorities of respondents indicating that their health care employers were going either above and beyond or providing the right amount of support.
Back in October 2020, about 15% of respondents to an SNN poll reported using federal relief funding primarily to provide bonuses or incentive pay, with nearly half saying the money went mostly toward maintaining existing payroll burdens.
The KFF/Post survey also illustrated the disproportionately harsh impact of the novel coronavirus on workers in institutional care settings for the elderly, with a quarter of nursing home and assisted living staffers saying they’d contracted COVID-19 sometime during the pandemic — compared to 18% of hospital workers, 14% of doctors’ office staff, and just 8% of home health workers.
While a majority of workers across all settings reported feeling burned out when reporting to their jobs, nursing homes led the way with 56%; home health aides had the relatively lowest proportion of burnout, the survey found, at 50%.
That said, the news wasn’t all gloomy, even among nursing home staffs that have seen waves of sickness and death or more than a year: Though they lagged slightly behind their counterparts elsewhere along the continuum, 70% of nursing home and AL workers said they felt hopeful about the future when clocking in, with 66% indicating optimism about the year ahead.
Nursing home workers were also generally in line with their peers in believing that the pandemic was at least somewhat under control, though most thought a return to full normalcy won’t occur until early 2022 or later.
The survey comes amid growing calls for better treatment of frontline caregivers in the post-acute and long-term care setting, with certified nursing assistants (CNAs) earlier this week conducting a virtual march on Washington, D.C. to demand better wages and workforce development support.
While leaders at nursing home operators and investment firms have indicated that pathways for advancement up the management ranks is necessary to attract and retain frontline talent, many CNAs insist that they’re right where they want to be in their careers — minus the material means necessary to provide for their families.
“In the future, we need incentives for people to become CNAs, and not only to become CNAs as a passing job to their career as a nurse,” CNA Branden Fillbrook said during the event. “That is fantastic, but what we really need is incentives for people to become a CNA as a career path. That will only happen through wages and benefits.”