BEDFORD — Several incentive and recruitment programs are needed to address a “critical” nursing staffing shortage at the Bedford County Nursing Home, county officials said.

The Bedford County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider a request Monday from the nursing home to approve a series of incentives to help fill some of the almost 50 available full- and part-time nursing positions. Last week, the board approved a pay incentive program that will be implemented at the facility over the next three months.

“We are trying to come up with a short-term holistic package to address the current nursing shortage,” Bedford County Administrator Robert Hiss said in an interview Tuesday. “We currently are close to the bare minimum we need.”

According to county staff reports, the facility at 1229 County Farm Road currently employs 38 certified nursing assistants (CNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs) and contracts an additional 22 nurses from outside agencies to supplement its staff. According to staff reports, about 35 CNAs and nurses are needed to provide the appropriate level of care each day to the approximately 90 residents at the facility.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult to stay fully staffed at all times because of the nationwide shortage of nurses,” Hiss said. “If a nurse is on vacation or calls out sick, it’s hard to find someone to cover that shift.”

During its June 10 meeting, the board of supervisors unanimously approved a three-month program for a critical staff pay incentive that provides a cash bonus for staff members who pick up open shifts when the number of CNAs or LPNs fall below a safe level. Through the incentive program, a CNA picking up an open shift would receive a $75 bonus and a LPN would receive an additional $100.

“A lot of the staff already are working extra hours,” Hiss said. “This program is offering a reward for that dedication.”

District 7 Supervisor Kevin Willis said the cost of paying the bonuses — which is estimated to be up to $3,000 during the three-month trial period — may be more cost-effective than continuing to contract nurses from other agencies.

“Traveling nurses make about twice as much an hour than nurses,” Willis said. “We probably end up paying more for a traveling nurse than we do if a regular staff member takes the shift and gets the bonus.

“I think this will help get some of these shifts staffed,” Willis said. “However, we still need to find a way to fill some of the openings at the nursing home.”

Hiss said additional incentives to help fill the 23 full-time and 26 part-time openings at the nursing home will be presented to the Bedford County Board of Supervisors for consideration during its meeting Monday.

“This is a highly competitive market,” Hiss said. “We have researched what other health care agencies are doing to attract and keep nurses. We need to be more competitive if we are going to fill at least some of these openings.”

Recruitment and retention incentives being proposed Monday to supervisors include:

» A $500 sign-on bonus to full-time applicants and a $250 sign-on bonus to part-time applicants who successfully complete 90 days of employment;

» A $500 bonus to employees for referring a full-time applicant after the applicant completes 90 days of employment;

» A $100 bonus to recipients of the facility’s employee of the month program; and

» Increasing the current shift differential for working second and third shifts from $1 an hour to $1.25 an hour.

Hiss said the sign-on and employee-referral bonuses will be implemented for a two-month trial period if approved by supervisors. The employee of the month bonus and increase in shift differential will be an ongoing incentive if approved and would cost the county an additional $10,500 a year, Hiss said.

“We will look at some of these incentives to see if they have any effect after 60 days,” Hiss said. “The board can decide then if they want to continue after that time.”

Willis said he looked at the incentives that will be proposed Monday and supports taking measures to address the staffing shortage at the nursing home.

“We are finding that there is a critical nursing shortage not only in Bedford County but all across Virginia,” Willis said. “The board is fully committed to doing whatever we can to help.”

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Shannon Keith covers Bedford County for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5530.

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