COVID-Related Wage Increases Haven’t Curbed Turnover

Staffing demands from COVID-19 spurred a national 7.13% increase in hourly wages for certified nursing aides (CNAs) this year according to a report published by the Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service (HCS).

The spike outpaced a 2020 increase of 4.76%. Non-certified nurse aides saw the highest raise at 7.98%, up from 4.24% in 2020.

Despite the rate hike, staff turnover increased significantly for CNAs, to 59.95% in 2021 from 39.38% in 2020, and by several percentage points across all staff positions.


The Nursing Home Salary & Benefits Report was released this month in cooperation with senior advocacy groups LeadingAge and the American Health Care Association (AHCA). About 1,613 nursing homes participated in the study, providing compensation data for 147,900-plus employees, including management and non-management staff members.

Participating facilities leaned slightly to the for-profit side with 59.95% participants, and 40.05% were non-profit skilled nursing organizations.

Wage increases have added “tremendous stress” to facilities already experiencing strained resources from the pandemic, Pinnacle Group CEO Israel Nachfolger said in an interview with Skilled Nursing News.


“We have neighboring facilities that have already started saying that they’re going to be going to $20 [per hour]. That means that for that segment of the workforce, wages went up basically 100% in the last three or four years … [SNFs] are not getting reimbursed anywhere near that level to compensate for that,” added Nachfolger, referring to Medicaid payments.

Pinnacle has four facilities throughout Maine and offers skilled nursing, memory care, rehabilitation and long-term care in-house.

Pockets of nursing home chains based in Oregon, Utah, Washington and Connecticut announced wage increases after negotiating contracts with local unions earlier in the year. Avamere workers received in some cases as much as a 30% wage increase in April followed by Empress raising wages by 20-to-30% mid-May.

Operators need to think about wage compression for licensed practical nurses, Nachfolger said, noting that LPN wages “obviously need to be higher.”

LPNs listed as practical nurses currently earn an average hourly rate of $25.12, according to the report; charge staff nurses, also considered LPNs, earn $27.28. Both roles saw increases of 4.82% and 4.27% respectively from 2020 to 2021.

The national 50th percentile for non-certified nurse aides was $12.60, according to the report, while the CNA hourly rate was $15.23. Certified medication technicians (CMTs) saw a rate bump too — the national average hourly rate jumped 6.75% this year, also a jump from a 3.12% increase in 2020. CMTs earned an hourly rate of $16.47 on average, the report said.

Editor’s Note: A correction has been made regarding The Pinnacle Group, which operates four skilled nursing facilities throughout Maine. Skilled Nursing News regrets the error.

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