Karen Shen, PhD: How COVID-19 Impacted Nursing Homes Staff Turnover Rates

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Shen explains how the pandemic affected the state of US elderly care, and discusses room for future research.

While a recent study led by Karen Shen, PhD, of the department of health policy at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health focused on staff turnover rates in nursing homes prior to COVID-19, research on how the pandemic impacted staff turnover rates in nursing rates still needs to be conducted.

Shen and her colleagues purposely drew data from 2017 – 2019 to not skew the data from the pandemic. Instead of doing the COVID-19 angle, they looked at how turnover rates, over the years, impacted quality of care. Unlike previous studies, the investigators defined new hires as anyone hired within 90 days instead of a full annual year. The investigators ultimately discovered high staff turnover rates decreases the quality of care.

In the second segment of an interview with HCPLive, Shen elaborated on the high turnover rates in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We've actually done other work on this where we found that facilities that experienced large outbreaks also experienced large turnover, in terms of separations of staff from those facilities following those large COVID-19 outbreaks,” Shen said. “So, we already know that COVID-19 had a significant negative impact on turnover in nursing homes.”

While Shen and her colleagues have not started any new research on this, they have been focusing on research that deals with policies and how the policies aimed at improving staffing will affect turnover and staffing levels.

“The question for the future is whether those high rates of turnover will persist because people have changed how they view the profession as potentially dangerous, or if they will recover back to normal levels,” Shen said.