There are significant concerns for the long-term effects of the pandemic on the nursing home workforce and healthcare salary outlook. Candidates are reporting experiencing burnout, and described the physical, mental, and emotional burden of staff shortages, increased case loads and the overall changes to nursing that the last 2 years has brought.
Burnout is an important contributor to staff turnover which is an ever-increasing problem in Irish nursing homes. Our clients are highlighting an increased turnover of Healthcare Assistants in particular, with many being lost to the public health service or to private hospital roles which are viewed as less physically and emotionally demanding.
In addition, Nursing Homes are facing considerable costs and operating losses due to the pandemic along with PPE supply chains and testing capacity.
Fresh thinking and government initiatives such as a continuation in payment assistance schemes will be critical in the years to come as it will support and develop this workforce.
The number of people aged over 65 is projected to rise by nearly 60 per cent by 2031, while the number of people aged over 85 is anticipated to increase by 95 per cent over the same period.
More needs to be done on a larger scale to provide stability in residential care.
The Covid-19 pandemic also led to a drop in overseas recruitment of nurses. This would normally make up a significant proportion of new entrants to the register. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has rebuffed claims of 3-month delays on permits for nurses and these are now being dealt with in a matter of days.
Evidence within the healthcare sector suggests that there is increasing competition for skilled candidates in several healthcare roles. Despite increased efforts to recruit from the Irish and European labour markets, including through engagement with the Department of Social Protection where supply had not met demand.
Over the summer, the government announced changes to the work-permit system, permitting employers to recruit staff from outside the European Union. Under this move, healthcare assistants will be immediately eligible for employment permits. Similar to changes made to chef permits in 2018, these permits have the potential to provide longer term stability for nursing homes in a market where candidates are increasingly moving between employers.
Looking to 2022
Flexibility is the key word coming through from candidates this year. Given the nature of how healthcare works, provision of this style of work is not practical to the extent that it may be in other industries. Candidates understand this but there is always ways that employers can give potential employees a sense of flexibility.
Even if this is something like introducing a cohesive system for shift swapping. This would meet this need and we can see candidates choosing these benefits over financial gain. Another nursing trend that we expect to see in 2022 is a growth in the number of nurses pursuing higher education. Employers can capitalise on this desire to upskill or retrain by streamlining available funding systems to access further education. COVID-19 has affected nurses deeply. The pressures of the pandemic have exacerbated workforce vulnerabilities and thoroughly exasperated many nurses and healthcare support staff. This has led to one in five considering leaving frontline work. COVID-19 might just be the catalyst that drives improvement in management, technology, and processes to help keep more nursing staff doing what they do best.
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