Rural nursing homes face technology and staffing challenges

4 months 1 week 3 days ago December 13, 2016 Dec 13, 2016 Tuesday, December 13 2016 Tuesday, December 13, 2016 11:06:00 AM CST in News
By: Jacob Kornhauser, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA - A new study from the University of Missouri says rural nursing homes are falling behind when it comes to information technology and attracting and retaining top medical talent. 

The study, the first of its kind since 2004, said both of these factors are critical in providing high-quality transitions in care. 

Tony Stuart, administrator of The Stuart Home in Centralia, said his nursing home faces challenges constantly in keeping up with its urban counterparts when it comes to technology. However, he said technology can't make up for the individualized care his home tries to provide.  

"Technology can't help a compassionate heart, a caring hand and no computer is going to do that at the bedside," Stuart said. 

Previous studies did not suggest there was a gap in care that was based on where you live. However, Greg Alexander with the Sinclair School of Nursing said this new study proves that is not the case. 

"[Previous studies suggested] the benefits of IT sophistication do not differ based on geography; however, in this national assessment, we found a significant gap in IT sophistication between rural and urban areas," Alexander said. 

Alexander also said one of the biggest factors impacting rural nursing-home care is the inability to get and keep top medical talent. 

"As competition for experienced health care IT professionals increases in urban areas, rural health-care organizations are finding it difficult to compete for needed talent," Alexander said. 

Alexander said rural nursing homes need to provide incentives to their staff in order to keep some of their best workers on board.

Stuart said his nurses often use a job at his facility as a "stepping stone" for their career and that he struggles keeping the best ones on his staff. 

"We would like to be able to clone nurses, especially those good ones and keep them forever. They move on and they want bigger challenges or to do different things and sometimes they want more money and there's other opportunities for them," Stuart said. 

Stuart said while he faces issues when it comes to technology and retaining his staff, he tries to create a family-centered atmosphere at his facility, which he said goes further than any piece of equipment. 

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