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New Dartmouth, UNH Study Finds Long-Term Care Workers Are More Likely To Have A Second Job

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A new study from Dartmouth College and UNH finds that many nurses and other health-care workers in long-term care facilities have second jobs.

The study was prompted by concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, specifically in long-term care facilities.

New Hampshire’s long term care facilities have been hit hard by the pandemic. About 80% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths have been residents in those facilities.

Kristin Smith is a visiting sociology associate professor at Dartmouth College. She says she wanted to understand how prevalent holding a second job was for workers in long-term care facilities.

The study looked at a decade’s worth of national data from the Current Population Survey from the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics, and found that those nurses hold a second job at a rate that’s 32% higher than other workers.

“We found that there is a large correlation between those that work in long-term care facilities for their first job and have a higher propensity to work in long-term care for their second job,” Smith said. “We are seeing nurses that work in long-term care also work in hospitals and home health care.”

The study also looked at “direct care workers,” which includes jobs like certified nursing assistants and personal and home care aides. This group holds a second job at a rate that’s 35% higher than other workers.

She says that could have consequences for both the health care workers and patients, in particular during the pandemic.

“As people are in more contact with other people, especially those that are at particular risk for COVID, the risk of contracting COVID could increase.”

Smith says her study doesn’t look at whether health care workers with a second job are pathways for contagion in long-term care facilities.

“Could we reduce deaths by decreasing second job holding? That’s an empirical question that researchers could look into, “ she said. “The other question is, if this is a pathway, what could we do about it?”

Low wages and few hours are a factor in getting a second job, Smith says. And she adds that increasing wages could be a way for employers to step in and reduce the need for their workers to get a second job.

In November, New Hampshire reinstated its $300 weekly stipend to long-term care workers in Medicaid facilities, as cases started to rapidly rise.

Daniela is an editor in NHPR's newsroom. She also leads NHPR's Spanish language news initiative, ¿Qué Hay de Nuevo, New Hampshire? You can email her at dallee@nhpr.org.

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