Post-It note with "now hiring" written on it

The direct care workforce crisis showed no signs of improvement in the early months of the year, according to a new poll by LeadingAge. In a poll of nearly 900 nonprofit providers, including more than 350 home health and hospice agencies, two-thirds of respondents said they continue to struggle to find and retain staff. 

“It is getting really scary in long-term care,” one provider told LeadingAge in the survey. “I have been doing this for 32+ years and this is the most dire time I have ever seen.” 

The poll conducted between Feb. 21 and March 13 also found that registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants remain the hardest jobs to fill. Respondents also told LeadingAge better pay was the most common reason staff exited jobs, followed by better scheduling options at other employers and burnout. 

In an effort to attract staff, more than two-thirds of agencies polled were offering signing bonuses and creative scheduling. Nearly all said they had boosted wages.

The new poll runs counter to what two of the nation’s largest for-profit home care agencies told investors earlier this week at the Oppenheimer Annual Healthcare Conference. Amedisys CEO Paul Kusserow told investors the staffing picture for nurses was improving at his firm. He speculated that more clinicians who left full-time jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic were returning to the workforce over fears of a possible recession. Enhabit Home Care and Hospice CEO Barb Jacobsmeyer also told conference attendees recruitment was improving at her firm, while also conceding that staffing shortages continue in some markets. 

The healthcare industry has been steadily adding roughly 50,000 jobs a month over the past six months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, healthcare employment still remains below pre-COVID-19 projections, according to the Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker. In December, home health employment was 5.5% below where it was projected to be prior to the pandemic and community care facilities for the elderly were 12.5% below expectations.