When it comes to skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes, nurses are some of the key providers that provide daily care to residents. These nurses are expected to adhere to strict infection control practices in order to ensure that infection spread and disease is kept to a minimum, and yet nursing facilities often have very high rates of infection.
Prior to COVID-19, 380,000 nursing home residents died due to infection annually. Things like respiratory infections, skin and soft tissue infection, influenza, and stomach related problems are some of the most prominent diseases that are spread throughout nursing homes. 1 to 3 million serious infections occur every year in nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, and assisted living facilities. With infection being so prevalent in these communities, one would assume all necessary precautions are taken, but in reality 40% of nursing homes were cited for poor infection control practices prior to the pandemic.
When the pandemic hit, these problems were only elevated.While nursing home residents make up less than 1% of the US population, they accounted for 1 in 5 COVID-related deaths. COVID-19 unfortunately killed 136,000 nursing home residents along with 2,000 healthcare providers in the facility. While conditions were already subpar pre-pandemic in many facilities, a lack of staff and funding only made things worse and now more than 300 nursing homes have closed. Even in 2022 more than 400 US certified nursing homes are on the brink of shutting down due to a lack of staffing and funding.
When it comes to preventing the spread of infections and COVID-19 in nursing facilities, nurses play a key role. However, 89% of healthcare organizations are experiencing a staffing shortage which has greatly increased the stress level of remaining workers. Since January of 2020, roughly 236,000 caregivers have left, and the remaining nurses are left feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, undervalued, frustrated, and stressed. Along with that, more than 1 in 4 nurses have experienced increased incivility or bullying from administration, managers, supervisors, and other nursing staff. So with so many nurses having left in the pandemic, more than half of remaining nurses have considered leaving their positions.
Nurses who did remain in their positions also had to handle new policies being put in place along with a shortage of personal protection equipment. These nurses were forced to reuse their PPE even though nearly 2 in 3 felt unsafe doing so. Even last year nearly 75% of facilities still didn’t have their staff N-95 fit tested.
Healthcare providers that have stayed in their facilities have obviously been handed extra work and stress, and this can lead to skipping simple practices like washing their hands. Skipping these very important steps along with having to reuse PPE increases the likelihood of transmitting infections and COVID-19. With so many facilities on the verge of closing down, it is more important than ever to ensure proper practices are in place to assist with infection control. The best way to do that is to ensure that nurses are supported with the proper equipment and tools, along with updated training to ensure that they are able to implement and practice safe policies.
Nurses in facilities can benefit from once-monthly in person training that focuses on how to prevent infection from spreading in their facilities. These training sessions go back to the basics before introducing more advanced techniques and provide practical training rather than just general guidelines. Even one day a month of in-person training can help alleviate some pressure off of nurses to ensure that their patients in assisted living facilities are receiving the best possible treatment.