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 DON Job Challenges Rise as Shortage of Nurses Continues

A new report shows how nurse staffing shortages are making it increasingly difficult for directors of nursing services (DONs) to do their jobs, which is impacting their overall job satisfaction and causing burnout within the profession.

These findings are part of the 2019 AADNS Director of Nursing Services Work Study and Salary Report published by the American Association of Directors of Nursing Services (AADNS), a subsidiary of the American Association of Post-Acute Care Nursing (AAPACN).

The report said 75 percent of DONs report staff shortages as their No. 1 challenge, while 63 percent said not having adequate staff to properly care for residents is a top challenge within the nursing department.

As a possible result of the staffing woes, some 66 percent of DONs surveyed said they are routinely called to the floor to provide direct resident care.

“With each of these staffing-related challenges, we found strong correlations for low DON job satisfaction,” said Amy Stewart, AAPACN vice president of curriculum development. “It’s not surprising with DONs having to juggle so many competing priorities that 39 percent say they’re unhappy with their work/life balance and are experiencing real burnout.”

AADNS said it conducts the survey every two years to assess current information on ages, hours worked, job challenges, and trends. The group uses the data it gathers to gain insight into the role of the DON within the long term care facility.

By collecting, analyzing, and trending this data, AADNS said it aims to: benchmark and report compensation levels by various factors, benchmark and understand nursing facility staffing practices and trends, benchmark significant stressors for the DON; and benchmark DON turnover and organizational trends.

The report said in addition to adequate staffing level issues, there is need to prioritize staff competency as well. DONs who said they are more challenged by training and providing continuing education within their nursing department are also more apt to be challenged preparing for the survey process.

On the salary front, the survey found the average annual salary for a DON is $92,756. Years of experience has the largest impact on compensation levels. For every additional year working in the same position, DON salaries rose by almost $700. The report said on average DONs in urban facilities are paid 19 percent more than their rural peers, and on average, those in for-profit facilities are paid 4 percent more than their nonprofit counterparts.

“Salary satisfaction and salary are significantly positively correlated (those who are paid higher are more satisfied with their salary). For every additional $1,000 earned, satisfaction in salary is predicted to increase by a value of the equivalent of a 4 percent increase in satisfaction,” the report said.

Those DONs working in the West had the highest average salaries at $106,730, but the report said the number may be higher than to be expected due to a large amount of urban facilities responding to the survey from that region.

The Northeast was close behind in second place, with an average DON salary of $104,053, followed by the South at $90,050, and then the Midwest at $82,163, the report said.

The report is available for sale at www.AADNS-LTC.org.

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