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Whether you’re already part of a skilled nursing facility (SNF) team or contemplating a role in one, this guide has you covered. Discover the distinct facets of SNF employment that will empower you as a skilled nurse. 

We’ll also explore the nuances that set SNF work apart, gain insights into patient care dynamics within the facility, and grasp the environment that medical professionals operate in. 

Defining and Differentiating a Skilled Nursing Facility 

A skilled nursing facility (SNF) is where trained medical professionals provide in-patient rehabilitation and medical treatment. The professionals involved in providing care in these facilities include licensed nurses, audiologists, speech pathologists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. 

In SNFs, patients are given constant assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) and healthcare during their stay. SNF patients are expected to stay in their respective facilities long-term but temporarily. These services may be very expensive, but most SNFs are covered, at least partially, by private health insurance providers, such as Medicare and Medicaid. 

According to Statista, as of 2021, the number of SNFs operating under Medicare in the United States is 14,908.¹ Skilled nursing facilities have not yet fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic and had an occupancy rate of 73.5 percent in 2021, a significant decrease from 84.7 percent before the pandemic.² 
Although the bed occupancy rate is lower than before, SNFs may still need more nurses to employ due to the nursing shortage

A Skilled Nursing Facility versus a Nursing Home 

The main difference between the two facilities is the amount of time a patient spends there to be cared for. A skilled nursing facility typically provides temporary residence to patients undergoing necessary rehabilitation treatment. Meanwhile, a nursing home is a permanent residence for people in need of 24/7 custodial care. 

Why Work at an SNF 

Working at an SNF can offer nurses the chance to truly get to know the patients they’re caring for due to the longer period of care they may require. This can help nurses improve empathy and how they provide emotional support on top of the physical care they will be doing. 

Patient Care and Rights Within an SNF 

Patients who need to stay in an SNF usually have medical conditions that can only be treated through supervision and specialized care. These may include chronic conditions, infections, surgery, or stroke recovery. 

Upon entering an SNF, a patient will be given an initial and other ongoing health assessments to evaluate their mental and physical health, medications, and their capability of handling activities of daily living. These activities may include bathing and getting dressed. The assessment will then help determine the care plan they will be going through. 

Nursing homes and SNFs are committed to upholding residents’ rights and ensuring equality regardless of race, ethnicity, color, sex, religion, age, and other protected traits. In cases of concerns, individuals can reach out to relevant authorities, such as state nursing home regulatory agencies or local long-term care ombudsmen. 

Additionally, an SNF is required by law to provide its patients with a written description of their legal rights. Though these rights may vary depending on the state they’re in. 

Being Employed in an SNF: What you Need to Know 

In becoming an SNF nurse, there are several factors you may want to consider. Here are some that you may want to be familiar with. 

Licenses for Skilled Nursing 

Providing your services within an SNF requires a high level of medical care, which means healthcare professionals should be licensed to qualify. Nurses will be required to complete an accredited nursing program and pass a national exam. 

The most common types of nurses in SNFs are as follows: 

Registered Nurses (RNs) 

RNs have acquired an associate degree or bachelor’s degree, passed the NCLEX-RN, and received their license from the state board of nursing. They’re able to provide patients with a care plan, perform assessments, administer medications, supervise other staff members, and provide education. 

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) 

LPNs have a high school diploma or GED. They then enroll in an accredited practical nursing program and are eventually required to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). 

These nurses are tasked to provide basic care, including changing dressings, taking vital signs, and assisting with personal hygiene. They’re usually supervised by physicians and RNs. 

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) 

CNAs passed a state exam and have accomplished short training programs. They can be tasked to directly care for patients. These tasks include bathing, grooming, feeding, and transferring. Additionally, CNAs are supervised by RNs or LPNs. 

Mentorship for Fresh Graduates 

You’ll definitely gain a lot of experience working at an SNF. But the experience can be very challenging for a new nurse if you start your career at the facility without a mentor. 

Take the time to talk to nurses, COTAs, therapists, and other professionals in your facility to gain insight into how they feel about working at that facility. You can also ask veteran professionals in the facility to mentor you or let you observe their work when your schedule allows you. 

In-House vs. Contract 

It’s best to research the facility you’ll be applying for to ensure a comfortable work environment.   

Determine whether the facility offers in-house employment or contracts with external companies. In-house roles are often preferred for their ethical stability. 

For contracted positions, research the SNF’s history with other companies. High turnover rates might raise concerns about job security. You can also review the contracting company for feedback and legal history to ensure a positive experience. 

General Services Provided 

SNFs provide 24-hour care to their patients, which may require nurses and other professionals to provide care on an extended basis. Here are some services you may be involved in when you work at such a facility: 

  • Administration of Potent Injectable and Intravenous Medications 
  • Physical Therapy 
  • Occupational Therapy 
  • Speech Therapy 
  • Dental Care 
  • Dementia Residents Specialized Units 
  • Bowel and Bladder Training 
  • Gait Training 
  • Recreational Therapy 
  • Pharmaceutical Services 
  • Dietary Services 
  • Social Services 

Productivity Requirements 

SNFs are known to have some of the highest productivity standards in the field. Some facilities with contracted for-profit rehab companies can have productivity requirements that go between 85 percent to 90 percent for OTRs and 95 percent to 100 percent for COTAs. This means you may be required to work with these therapists for longer hours as well. 

It’s best to look for ethical SNFs or subacute rehab companies with requirements that don’t go beyond 80 percent productivity. That way you keep your professional and personal life well-balanced.  

Extend the care you provide in SNFs. 

If you are looking for a different nursing experience where you can provide care for your patients for longer, try working at an SNF. There you will learn from therapists and physicians on how to better the lives of patients with more complex cases. 

Related Reading: A Personalized Approach to Nurse Retention: Lessons from a Nursing Home in South Dakota 

BECOME A NURSE IN AN SNF WITH PRS GLOBAL 

If you’re looking for another opportunity to make the most of your skills in an SNF, then you may want to consider becoming a global nurse in the United States with PRS Global’s assistance.  

We can help you find a rewarding employment opportunity in an American facility, such as an SNF, through direct hiring. We’ll help you fulfil your employment requirements so you can start working as soon as possible. Get in touch with us today to learn more about the global nursing opportunities we have in store for you. 

References 

1 “Number of Medicare Skilled Nursing Facilities in the U.S. from 1967 to 2021.” Statista, 14 Jun. 2023, www.statista.com/statistics/195317/number-of-medicare-skilled-nursing-facilities-in-the-us/

2 Michas, Frederic. “Median Occupancy Rate of U.S. Skilled Nursing Facility Beds in 2020 and 2021.” Statista, 7 Mar. 2022, www.statista.com/statistics/858692/us-skilled-nursing-facility-occupancy-percentage/