Tackling the nursing home staffing crisis  

A person feeds another person water
Nursing homes across the U.S. are facing worker shortages. In Minnesota, 20 percent of long-term care positions are unfilled, according to the trade association LeadingAge Minnesota, due to working conditions and low wages.

During the pandemic, people living and working in nursing homes and assisted living communities faced the brunt of COVID-19’s devastation.   

Now there’s a new crisis facing long-term care — a staffing crisis. About 20 percent of jobs in nursing homes remain unfilled.   

Nursing assistants have been overwhelmed by extra shifts. Some nursing homes have closed entire wings and are turning away older people who need skilled nursing care because they don’t have enough employees.  

To draw attention to working conditions, several hundred workers at a handful of Twin Cities nursing homes have planned a one-day strike next Tuesday. They also hope to build support for higher wages and better benefits.  

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MPR News host Angela Davis talks about the issues behind the strike and what it’s like to run nursing homes and work in them.


  • Kari Thurlow is president and CEO of LeadingAge Minnesota, a trade association for nonprofit and for-profit nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other senior services. 

  • Nessa Higgins works in a nursing home in Minneapolis represented by UFCW Local 663 and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota & Iowa and will participate in next week’s strike. She’s worked for 25 years in senior care in a variety of positions, including as a certified nursing assistant, a trained medication aide and in culinary jobs.

Three people pose to get their photo taken
MPR News Host Angela Davis (center), Kari Thurlow (left), and Nessa Higgins (right) pose for a portrait at the Kling Public Media Center in St. Paul on Tuesday.
Nikhil Kumaran | MPR News

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