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North Dakota nursing and residential care facilities face staffing shortages

North Dakota nursing and residential care facilities are looking for workers.

But they're having trouble filling the openings.

"It's the worst that we've ever seen it," said North Dakota Long Term Care Association president Shelly Peterson. She said about 1,500 employees left during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"At the beginning of the pandemic, we had 16,188 individuals employed," Peterson said. "And now we're at 14,623. And we just haven't been able to recover the staff that we need."

Peterson said the facilities are using contract staff to temporarily fill those positions. And she said none of the requirements — including masking, testing and vaccination status — have changed since the pandemic. Peterson says that has driven some staff away.

"We're still as though we're in the throes of the pandemic," Peterson said. "It's becoming exhausting — physically, mentally and emotionally — for our staff. Thus, we continue to lose staff."

Peterson said even though the facilities are out recruiting, there’s a lot of competition for employees. And she said over the past nine months, three facilities – in Crosby, Mott and Wilton – have closed.

"I don't know how long others can stay in operation," Peterson said. "You need staff to operate."

Peterson said relying on contract staff is a very expensive model.

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