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Challenges for an SNFist Practitioner

SNFist practitioners—medical professionals whose careers are devoted to working with patients and residents in long-term care facilities—are faced with a set of challenges that is unique from those of other healthcare professionals. It is this particular set of challenges that births the acronym SNF, which stands for skilled nursing facilities.  The main reason for this is that SNF practitioners must take a completely different approach from traditional treatment. It is their job to acclimate the patient to life with their medical condition, rather than rid the patient of the condition. Below are just some of the challenges that distinguish SNF practitioners from so many others.

Inadequate Facilities

The inadequacy of long-term care facilities may be the most significant challenge to SFN practitioners. Lack of space for patients is a common issue. Many patients are forced to share rooms with others when they do not want to, and often times these patients themselves are facing a very different set of medical problems, which often causes commotion and confusion. Besides space, a lot of long-term care facilities are run inside older buildings from a time that was much less aware of and sensitive to medical needs such as rails in bathing areas. Additionally, more antiquated structures are not suitable for the current trend in long-term care to structure residents into small family-like communities, and so pose not only a problem of lacking space but it is difficult to use the space that does exist efficiently.

SNFist-challenge-shortagesTransitions in Care

Patient transitions into long-term care facilities are also a big challenge for SNF practitioners. Whether new residents are coming from a hospital, their home, or another long-term care facility, it is often a long, arduous process to obtain all of their medical records in an amount of time reasonable enough to continue their care program without skipping a beat. Complications often ensue from the time a new patient/resident enters the long-term care facility, as they usually need to be seen by a physician right away but are almost never immediately seen by the doctor that will be working with them through the long-haul. The rapid shifting of responsibility both externally and internally is an enormous challenge to the field as a whole.

Staffing Shortages

Staffing shortages represent an increasing problem to SNF practitioners. There is a general struggle to locate and hire specialist healthcare workers for residents in long-term care facilities, and often times facilities are forced to deny new residents because their current staff is already taking on too many patients. One reason for the industry-wide staffing shortage is a trend of new medical students who are not interested in pursuing a career in geriatrics. Efforts have been made by several geriatric and long-term care specialist professional associations to mentor medical students who show signs of interest in the field. A second reason for the staffing shortage is the aging Baby Boomer demographic, an enormous subset of the population that is now beginning to enter the stages of life when the need for long-term care is more common.

Embracing the Illness Management Paradigm

Offering patient-centered care in a long-term care facility is another significant challenge that SNFist practitioners face. The approach to caring for long-term care patients is much different than providing care for patients in a hospital or outpatient facility, as it requires healthcare workers to work with the patients and their families to manage the illness of the patient and focus on improving the patient’s quality of life. This is opposed to the more traditional medical goal of seeking to cure or treat a patient so that he or she can return to the life quality they are most familiar and comfortable with. Besides the very difficult process of negotiation with the patient into new life expectations, illness management includes many complicated discussions such as decisions regarding documents such as “do-not-resuscitate” forms. Breaking the emotional and social barriers in order to be an effective caretaker is one of the biggest challenges in the medical practice.

What specific challenges have you faced and overcome as an SNFist practitioner? Share your stories to help others.

Tom Prose