Nursing homes are a vital part of the health care system, and many people need to turn to nursing homes to provide specialized care later in life.

However, the health care system has been strained in recent years. As such, there is a shortage of skilled health care workers in the field, including in nursing homes. It becomes incumbent upon those managing nursing homes to find ways to attract and retain skilled nursing home employees in order to properly care for patients while successfully securing the longevity of the facility to continue providing care to those who may need it for years to come.

Nursing home operators can create a culture of care to attract employees who are in high demand. Offering a comprehensive and fair compensation package is crucial to attracting and retaining skilled employees. Owners and managers of a nursing home should review their compensation offerings frequently to ensure they remain competitive as an employer and retain skilled workers.

Compensation is not limited to regular earnings; it may include other benefits such as (but not limited to) paid leave, medical benefits, support for medical licensing, and insurance plans including private disability insurance. Not only do these compensation packages allow skilled nursing home workers to afford necessities but benefits like those stemming from disability insurance provide an income safety net and financial peace of mind should the employee become disabled.

Working in a Nursing Home Comes with Occupational Risk

Working in any medical care setting comes with some risk of illness or injury as workers are exposed to contagious diseases and potential injuries on the job caused by repetitive actions. Some of these conditions can become disabling. While workers' compensation benefits may provide some financial relief to the disabled worker in some cases, private disability insurance benefits are an important part of providing financial security for a disabled employee. Long-term disability insurance benefits are particularly important to disabled workers who are out of work for several months or years.

Nursing homes may come with significant occupational risk of illness or injury. The health care workers, physicians, and nurses who work in nursing homes see patients regularly, and as these patients live there full-time, there is no option to send sick patients home. The spread of disease can harm medical professionals working in nursing homes. This was observed frequently during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The physical injury risk to nursing home workers is also increased. Residents of nursing homes often need assistance with ambulation and mobility. Even with trained medical staff overseeing these activities, accidents do happen. Residents can be startled or fatigued during mobility or transfer activities that are part of their care, during which time employees can be injured from a fall or sudden shift of weight or movement.

If a resident falls in the nursing home and needs assistance, this can increase the risk of injury to the assisting employee. Even occupational therapists or physical therapists who have extensive training in safely ambulating patients can be injured in an accident.  

Disability Insurance Benefits Offer Employees Peace of Mind

With a heightened risk of contracting illness or suffering an injury in the workplace, many skilled nursing home employees may be concerned about the possibility their illness or injury might prevent them from working. Of course, illness or injury can happen outside the workplace as well, and offering a way for employees to prepare for the unexpected is a sound, compassionate business decision.

One way to invest in your employees and provide peace of mind should they become unable to work is by offering long-term disability insurance plans. This can be done in a number of ways. For example, the employer can offer group disability insurance benefits, including long-term and short-term disability insurance coverage. In some instances, the employer will pay a portion or all of the disability insurance premiums for the employee. As a business, the nursing home should consult with a business advisor or tax professional to assess how to structure disability insurance offerings to employees to ensure a sound business decision is made and to ensure that tax implications are appropriately considered.

Adding Disability Insurance Coverage Through Private Disability Policies

Not every business can offer the full range of disability insurance benefits to its employees. The premiums may be too high for the business, or the staff size may be too small. If offering group disability insurance is not practical, or the offering is limited in some way, the employer can still offer some options to employees. The nursing home could include an allowance or partial reimbursement for employees to secure private disability insurance coverage.

Private or individual disability insurance benefits allow individuals to contract for coverage or add policy riders that may not be offered within the standard group policy framework. This allows the employee to obtain the disability insurance coverage that will best suit their needs, which is especially important for medical professionals who may face challenges securing disability insurance coverage after the onset of a disability. 

As with other benefit decisions, offering an allowance or reimbursement for disability insurance premiums to employees should be discussed with a business advisor to make the best possible decision in the current health care environment to protect the nursing home, its employees, and its patients.

Dominick LaGravineseUltimately, nursing home management can play a significant role in retaining skilled employees and promoting a successful and healthy facility through a comprehensive benefits plan that includes disability insurance benefits for employees.

Dominick V. LaGravinese Jr. is an associate at the disability insurance law firm Seltzer & Associates.​​ He graduated from Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Florida, with a Juris Doctor degree. He is a licensed attorney in the states of Florida and Pennsylvania.