NewsLocal News


Northeast Wisconsin nursing homes battle intensified employee shortage, halt admissions

Posted at 5:42 PM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 18:52:07-04

KAUKAUNA, Wis. (NBC 26) — Employers across the state are struggling to find help.

"It's a day-by-day challenge," St. Paul Elder Services President and CEO Sondra Norder said.

And for the Kaukauna-based long-term care facility, that challenge isn't getting any easier.


"We are absolutely experiencing staffing challenges that are beyond anything we've ever experienced historically," Norder said.

According to AARP, over 51 percent of Wisconsin's nursing homes experienced a shortage of direct care employees in a month's span ending on Sept. 19. That's a seven percent increase from four weeks prior.

And without enough staff, Norder has been forced to partially halt admissions.

"Half of the people who apply here never call us back to set up interviews," she said.

Though she says the pay is competitive with other industries, Norder believes people are interested in jobs with more flexibility. And with a 90-percent vaccination rate at St. Paul, she says mandates are likely playing a part.

"We have lost some people and we expect to lose a few more people who are choosing not to be vaccinated at this time," Norder said.

Experts believe there's just a lack of potential workers.

"The ratio of older adults compared to those in the workforce, the ratio is declining," LeadingAge Wisconsin President and CEO John Sauer said.

In an effort to keep nursing homes afloat, the state introduced an emergency staffing contract.

"Individuals from outside the State of Wisconsin, at least we hope, are going to come in and offer their services for a month or two," Sauer said.

Though she's dealt with staffing shortages in the past, Norder says it continues to get worse.

"It is our new normal for our management team to be working the floor, providing direct patient care every day," she said.