Workers at fast food restaurants across the country continue to strike in favor of higher wages, yet in Texas some healthcare advocates are saying the fast food industry pays better than nursing. It's a wage gap that is reportedly driving nurses out of their profession and into the drive-thru window.
"You know, you can start off at McDonald's at $13 to $14 an hour in some cases, you could certainly find easier jobs for more money and that's a real problem when you're trying to keep good people in your facilities," Scott Kibbe of the Texas Health Care Association tells NBC, referring to certified nursing assistants
"Sometimes they can go down to the drive-thru window at McDonald's or Wendy's and make more money"
According to the Dallas News, Texas has one of the lowest Medicaid reimbursement rates in the country and it's contributing to low pay at nursing homes. Approximately 85 percent of Texans living in nursing homes are enrolled in Medicaid or Medicare. Meanwhile, a 2013 report shows that the annual turnover rate among the state's registered nurses working in nursing homes hovers around 94 percent, leading to higher training costs and an unstable medical care workforce for the state's rapidly aging population.
"Sometimes [healthcare workers] can go down to the drive-thru window at McDonald's or Wendy's and make more money," says Julie Sulik, vice president of Clinical Services for Southwest Long Term Management. "Morale can be hurt when we have a hiring freeze or a wage freeze, because we can't compete."
Whether fast food companies and other minimum wage jobs are actually driving the exodus of Texas healthcare workers from the industry isn't entirely clear. McDonald's isn't exactly known for its high wages, but prefers to leave pay scale decisions up to its franchisees (although that might change). The state's minimum wage stands at $7.25 — on par with the federal minimum wage standard — and, according to Glassdoor, pay for McDonald's workers in the Houston area ranges somewhere between $7.52 and $9.73 per hour for crew members. Nevertheless, Texas's healthcare advocates are calling for more funding and a hiring reimbursement rate to help stem the flow of nurses out of the workforce and attract new caregivers.
Watch the NBC report below: