Useful Nursing Home Staffing Details

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has improved its online nursing home tools to provide details on staffing levels – a variable that often is linked to a home’s quality of care.

Adequate nursing home staffing was a problem before the pandemic but has become even more challenging since. The jobs have never paid very well and the work can be arduous in the best of times. Today, residents continue to be vulnerable to serious COVID illnesses, and staffers face heightened challenges in caring for vulnerable residents and also concerns about their health and that of their family.

The new CMS measures track staffing turnover and weekend staffing. It described these terms in a news release:

Staff turnover is the percent of nursing staff and number of administrators that stopped working at a nursing home over a 12-month period. The nursing staff included in this measure includes licensed nurse staff (i.e. registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical and vocational nurses as well as nurse aides who work under the direction of licensed nurse staff and provide much of the day-to-day care for nursing home residents, such as eating, bathing, grooming and toileting.

Weekend staffing is the level of total nurse and RN staffing on weekends provided by each nursing home over a quarter.

“Facilities with lower nurse turnover may have more staff that are familiar with each resident’s condition and may be more able to identify a resident’s change in condition sooner,” the agency said. “Lower administrator turnover may have a positive impact on leadership stability, direction and operations, which may help staff provide more care consistently and effectively to residents.”

The new tools are part of Medicare’s “Care Compare” website. Click on the Nursing Home icon and then enter the name of a nursing home or a ZIP code for a list of homes near that area. You can then refine the search by distance, quality rating, number of licensed beds, and other variables, including whether a home accepts Medicare or Medicaid.

Clicking on a link for a specific home generates a summary page for that home. It includes subsections for health inspections, staffing, and quality of resident care. Clicking on the box labelled “View Staffing Information” will generate a page with several details, including the newly added measures. The data are compared with U.S. and statewide averages to provide an indication of relative performance.