An excellent way to increase the hourly wage of our nurses and certified nursing assistants

If you’ve visited a lot of nursing homes, as we have, you’ll notice that a lot of the facilities look very much alike. This should be no surprise, as the same small group of people are behind the construction and administration of many of these places. The average nursing home is not a little Mom-and-Pop enterprise (and there are reasons to be wary of those too…).  Rather, the typical nursing facility will involve one or more multi-story buildings, divided into different wings for different levels of patient care, situated on a large campus. It will house hundreds of patients, not a handful, most of whom will require some level of supportive and/or medical care every day.

nurses and certified nursing assistantsCookie-cutter facilities are bound to result when the great majority of nursing facilities in this country are owned by just a few individuals and major conglomerates. Put another way: Nursing homes in the US are corporate. This means, unfortunately, that this nursing home “industry” is driven by a bottom-line-focused, profit-margin-inspired, corporate mentality. And what is best for the residents may take second fiddle to what is best for the company.  Executive compensation, for example, is often tied to profits, not quality of care. Administrators and mid-level managers are constantly encouraged to look for ways to make the facility “leaner” and more cost-efficient. Sadly, they frequently achieve these savings by cutting staff, reducing resources and eliminating training – all to the detriment of patient care.

The front-line staff that interact with patients every day are the CNAs (certified nurse’s aides) and LPNs (licensed practical nurses). In too many facilities, the CNAs and LPNs are simply overtaxed. They are poorly compensated, poorly trained, and required to care for more patients than one person can competently attend to. This leads to high turnover and poor morale – resulting in a negative feedback loop of overworked, unhappy employees leaving, to be replaced by new unhappy employees.

What if the facility was far-sighted and responsible enough to do things a little differently?  In that case, it might do what Parkland Health in Dallas has done, and set aside just some of the money designated for executive bonuses to be used to raise the hourly wages of its lowest-paid employees.  Parkland has unilaterally raised its workers’ minimum wage to $10.25 an hour, funding the raise with money that would have gone to top-line executives. That’s an idea we can get behind, and we hope it catches on in the entire industry. Higher paid employees mean less turnover and better motivation to keep the job. If some of that executive compensation was used to hire more employees, the results would likely be even better.