National nursing shortage felt at La Crosse’s Bethany St. Joseph Corp.

La Crosse nursing home leader trying to keep staff afloat after pandemic's toll on healthcare careers

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Nearly every nursing home in America is short-staffed. That’s according to the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living.

This survey shows 99 percent of nursing homes and 96 percent of assisted living facilities nationwide face a staff shortage. Nursing home leaders in La Crosse are struggling to answer the question: here did the interest go for careers in health care?

Some people go to work for more than just a paycheck.

“Our community is just so loving and caring,” said Lisa Rasmussen, a nursing scheduler and certified nursing assistant at Bethany St. Joseph Corp. in La Crosse.

Rasmussen is air traffic control for a group of people answering the call to serve. Nursing homes like Bethany St. Joeseph Corporation struggle to bring new nurses through its doors.

“It’s never been like this before,” Rasmussen said.

The American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living found 78 percent of nursing homes and 61 percent of assisted living communities, face worker shortages so bad they’re concerned may have to close their doors for good.

“I feel it’s extremely difficult,” Rasmussen said.

Fortunately, Bethany St. Joseph has enough dedicated people to stay open.

“Everybody pitches in and helps,” said Larry Pupp,  Bethany St. Joseph administrator.

The shortage leaves Pupp scratching his head on how to fix this problem.

“We’ve increased our pay scales,” Pupp said. “We’ve offered shift pick-up incentives for our staff.”

Not to mention the staffing shortage here also affects the community’s hospitals.

“Hospitals have a difficult time discharging because the nursing homes aren’t capable of taking higher numbers of residents,” Pupp said.

Some questions don’t have answers right now.

“We wish we knew,” Pupp said. “We do everything we can to recruit and advertise and try to find candidates. I’m just not sure where everybody is.”

People end up taking other jobs that require less experience and produce less stress.

“We compete not only with other healthcare facilities but we compete with every employer in town,” Pupp said.

For those who chose to stick with their passion, Rasmussen said their effort doesn’t go unnoticed.

“We just work as a team,” Rasmussen said. “Everybody pitches whenever they need to help. Even when it’s not their job.”

Nursing home leaders say they are also seeing fewer college graduates apply for jobs. They continue to encourage people to enter healthcare. Forty-five percent of nursing homes say vaccine requirements make recruiting difficult.

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