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Nursing home worker survey results highlight Minnesota short staffing crisis

October 11, 2023

Nine in 10 Minnesota nursing home workers say they struggle to afford basic needs, driving high turnover in the industry. Overwhelmed by short staffing, workers look to a collective voice, increased wages to improve jobs.


It is well known that there is a critical shortage of nursing home workers in Minnesota, posing significant challenges to the state's long-term care system. According to a recent analysis of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services data, Minnesota’s nursing home industry reported the largest workforce shortage in the country, driven by persistent low wages, lack of benefits, poor job quality, and “dead-end” caregiving jobs with few opportunities for career advancement.

A new large-scale survey of nursing home workers across Minnesota underscores the challenges workers face and the drivers of the worker shortage. Conducted from June to September 2023, the results are based on more than 1,300 conversations with workers from across the state including from the greater Twin Cities, Duluth, Bemidji, Rochester, St. Cloud, and other communities. Workers from more than one in four Minnesota nursing homes participated in the survey.

Nursing Home Worker Survey Findings:
Resident care crisis - It is nearly universally believed by workers in the industry (94%) that staffing levels in Minnesota nursing homes affect the quality of care that they are able to deliver on a daily basis.

Frontline workers struggling to meet basic needs - Two out of three nursing home workers (66%) report struggling to meet their household’s basic needs every month.

Low wages - Half of nursing home workers (49%) reported making $20/hour or less and 80% reported making less than $25/hour. The MIT living wage calculator estimates one adult with one child in Hennepin County would need to make $37.61 to earn a living wage. One adult with one child in Aitkin County would need to make $32.55 to earn a living wage.

Wages drive staffing shortage - More than a third of nursing home workers (36%) say low pay is to blame for the acute workforce shortage.

Wage boost would be a game-changer - More than 8 in ten nursing home workers (88%) report that a wage increase to $25/hr would make a difference in their ability to care for themselves and their family. An overwhelming majority surveyed (92%) said raising the minimum wage to $25/hour would make a significant impact to address the worker shortage.

A voice on the job - Workers are clear that there’s strength in numbers. Despite the overwhelming challenges they are facing, a full 97% of them said they’re ready to join together to raise their voices and ensure nursing home workers are treated well and compensated fairly for their important work.

Nursing home workers, including registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, certified nursing assistants, trained medication aides, housekeepers, food service workers and housekeeping workers and others, assist older adults and people with disabilities with essential daily tasks and activities. Their ability to provide the needed daily personal care and support has a direct impact on residents’ quality of life. As Minnesota’s population ages – the number of adults age 85 and older is expected to nearly triple from 2016 to 2060 – and the demand for quality nursing home care increases exponentially, the lack of available caregivers could affect the health and well-being of tens of thousands of older Minnesotans and people with disabilities.

The nursing home workforce shortage in Minnesota is an issue that cannot be ignored, with far-reaching implications for resident care, the economy, and the well-being of the state's aging population. This industry crisis also puts additional pressure on the existing workforce, increasing burnout rates, workplace injuries, and turnover among healthcare professionals. Addressing these issues is not only a matter of workforce development but also a public health imperative that demands immediate attention and comprehensive solutions to ensure the well-being of both nursing home residents and the dedicated healthcare workers who serve them.