Nursing home night staff had lower COVID vax rates

Night staff at nursing homes had lower rates of COVID-19 testing and vaccination than day-shift staff, according to a new study.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, regular testing and vaccinations of nursing home staff have been critical strategies for containing virus outbreaks in nursing homes.

In order to assess how various structural factors affected the differences in testing rates and vaccinations, researchers analyzed data from nursing homes across the country, looking specifically at work shifts.

They found that day-shift staff had the highest testing rates and odds of primary vaccination, while night-shift staff had the lowest.

Work shift has not been recognized as a significant factor contributing to implementation of testing and vaccination programs at nursing homes, says lead author Elizabeth White, an assistant professor of health services, policy, and practice at Brown University’s School of Public Health.

“Testing and vaccination programs have been so critical to mitigating the effects of COVID-19 in nursing homes,” White says. “Our findings suggest that any future booster campaigns or testing campaigns need to consider equitable distribution of resources across shifts to reduce the variation we saw in our study.”

She emphasizes that the study findings have broader relevance beyond nursing homes as well as beyond the pandemic.

“Our findings highlight that work shift is an important structural factor to consider when implementing public health initiatives—from COVID vaccination and testing to flu vaccine—in organizations with shift-based workforces,” White says.

For the study in Health Affairs, the researchers had access to a large and unique data set, White says, due to Brown’s involvement with an initiative by the National Institute on Aging called the Imbedded Pragmatic Alzheimer’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Dementias Clinical Trials (IMPACT) Collaboratory, co-led by Vincent Mor, a professor at Brown who is a senior author of the study.

They analyzed nursing home data, including staff COVID-19 testing and immunization records, from 294 facilities for the period from April 2020 to March 2021.

The researchers found significant differences in testing rates and odds of primary vaccination by work shift: Night-shift staff testing rates were 0.71 times those of the day-shift staff, and evening-shift testing rates were 0.91 times those of the day shift. Controlling for staff and facility characteristics, adjusted vaccination rates were 67% among day shift staff, 62% among evening-shift staff, and 50% among night-shift staff.

The authors note that differences in staffing levels and resources, work demands and the presence of senior and mid-level leadership across nursing home shifts may influence the implementation of organization-wide processes such as COVID-19 testing and vaccination.

Compared to staff who work during the day, staff who work the evening and night shift have less exposure to senior leaders, in particular the directors of nursing, medical directors, and nursing home administrators, White explains.

Other research throughout the pandemic has shown that those leaders, in particular, are important in building trust around vaccines and for helping to successfully implement changes in workplace health protocols.

Another important study finding, White says, was that the lower rates of COVID-19 testing among Black employees was almost entirely attributed to a disproportionate number of Black employees working on evening and night shifts.

“That tells us that shift is a structural factor contributing to a racial disparity in testing among staff,” White says.

The authors conclude that their findings highlight the need to coordinate resources and communication evenly across shifts when implementing large-scaled public health initiatives in nursing homes and other organizations with shift-based workforces.

“These results apply not only to nursing homes, but also to hospitals or even Amazon and other organizations with shift-based workforces,” White says.

This study was funded under an IMPACT Collaboratory supplement through an initiative of the National Institutes of Health called Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics for Underserved Populations (RADx-UP), aimed at reducing disparities in underserved populations who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

The residents of nursing homes have been disproportionately affected by COVID, White says, as have the staff, who are often from underserved populations.

Additional coauthors are from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Harvard University, RAF Healthcare Solutions, Hebrew Senior, and Brown.

The National Institute on Aging funded the work.

Source: Brown University

Original Study

DOI: 10.1377/hlthaff.2022.01011

by Corrie Pikul-Brown

Published on 2023-02-08

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Originally posted as: Nursing home night staff had lower COVID vax rates - Futurity, made available by Futurity under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

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