Senior man in a SNF laying in bed with two nurses beside him

What Is a SNF-ist?

While a hospitalist refers to someone who works in a hospital, a SNFist refers to those who work in a skilled nursing facility, or SNF. It’s an umbrella term that refers to any healthcare worker within this specialized type of institution.


Understanding the different types of individuals who work in a SNF, as well as the types of services they can offer to you or a senior loved one, can help you make a more informed decision about which facilities are best. Here’s everything you need to know.


Understanding SNFists

While the people who work in a SNF have similar training and education to those who work in a typical hospital setting, there are a few aspects where they differ. 


The main one is that most SNFists have a background in geriatric medicine specifically, as this tends to be the main population within skilled nursing facilities. SNFists are trained in rehab medicine as well as palliative and/or hospice care. 


SNFists can include anyone who works within a skilled nursing facility. This includes physicians, but it also refers to physical therapists, nurses, speech or occupational therapists, geriatric psychiatrists, or even those within leadership or management positions.


Types of SNFists

Understanding the different types of individuals who work in a SNF can be helpful for a few reasons. For one, it can help you clearly picture the types of services your loved one will be able to receive during their stay in a long-term care facility. But also, it can help you gain an appreciation for the broad scope of work and specialties that inhabit these spaces.


Nurses, Registered Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, and Licensed Nurses

The main individuals that your loved one will be interacting with on a daily basis are registered nurses and nursing assistants. 


Registered nurses (RN) are often considered the backbone of health care in the United States for multiple reasons.


RNs will perform physical exams and daily check-ins with your loved one to assess the state of their rehabilitation. They will also administer medications properly and timely while coordinating care with other healthcare professionals to ensure the highest quality treatment possible. Additionally, they can do bloodwork, care for wounds and change bandages, and educate patients on healthful practices.


Nurse practitioners, while similar to RNs, are different in that they are able to prescribe treatments and order tests. Nurse practitioners undergo additional schooling and clinical training to allow them to function in a more independent capacity than RNs. Similarly to nurses, NPs can diagnose patients and create a treatment plan that RNs will then be able to follow.


The bottom line is that nurses play an integral part of the SNF system, and they are probably what comes to mind when you think of an SNFist in general.


Physical Therapists

Many individuals in a skilled nursing facility are there because of some sort of functional or mobility impairment. This is especially true for elderly individuals who may be struggling with pain and discomfort from chronic conditions such as arthritis or osteoporosis, as well as acute injuries from falls.


For that reason, physical therapists are also an important part of the SNF system, as they can provide patients with exercises and stretches to help alleviate pain and discomfort. 


Physical therapists focus on restoring movement so individuals can return to the tasks they once could accomplish pain-free. Additionally, physical therapists play a pivotal role in educating your loved ones so that they can prevent future injuries and help heal current injuries. This includes teaching stretches that can be performed from anywhere, as well as speaking about preventative measures that can be taken upon discharge from the SNF.


Occupational Therapists

Closely related to physical therapists are occupational therapists, and these individuals also play an important part in your loved one’s recovery during their time in a SNF. Occupational therapists help people participate in the things they want to and need to do through the use of activities of daily living (ADLs).


ADLs include tasks like brushing your teeth, putting away laundry, cleaning the dishes, or taking a shower. As your loved one grows older and becomes cognitively or physically impaired due to dementia, injury, or another condition, these simple tasks can become much more difficult to complete.


Occupational therapists work to provide novel ways to complete these tasks that take into account the challenges and limitations of the specific individual. They look at what your loved one can do, and they try to find new ways to go about everyday obstacles.


Geriatric Psychiatrists

While physical health is naturally important for aging individuals, behavioral and mental health are of equal necessity. Geriatric psychiatry focuses on addressing the unique challenges of an aging mind, and they are an essential component of the SNF community.


Common mental health conditions that affect the elderly include Alzheimer’s and dementia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. In fact, it’s thought that over six million Americans over the age of 65 are affected by depression.


Geriatric doctors are able to use talk therapy to help your loved one come up with new methods of addressing and handling some of their thoughts or feelings. Additionally, they can prescribe medication if appropriate in order to improve your loved one’s quality of life.


Dietary Aides and Nutritionists

Dietary aides work alongside dieticians and dietary managers to prepare meals for residents and patients within a skilled nursing facility. These are the people making sure your loved one doesn’t go hungry during their visit! They’ll also serve meals and ensure food hygiene at all times.


While dietary aides are not able to provide nutrition recommendations to patients, they can follow the orders of dieticians who are sometimes present in the SNF setting. Dieticians can craft meal plans, help your loved one find healthy foods based on their preferences, and provide education about proper portion control.


This information can be necessary for you as the caregiver, too. If you’ll be responsible for serving meals to your loved one once they are discharged, these specialists can work with you to provide recommendations.


Leadership and Management

While SNFs wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the hard work of the clinical team, they also wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the efforts of the individuals behind the scenes. Facility administrators, program managers, and office workers are just a few of the individuals who cover the logistical aspects of SNFs to keep things running smoothly.


Benefits of SNFists

SNFists can have an immense impact on their patients in highly positive ways. For one, they can help change the perception of long-term care.


SNFists are properly trained to understand the unique challenges of geriatric care, and they are more equipped to handle situations and cut back on the risk of abuse. This means that your loved one will get higher quality care from people you can trust.


Plus, facilities who implement a SNF model are able to provide higher quality patient care because they were formed to meet the special needs of patients within the walls of post-acute facilities.


Additionally, a facility with a strong team of SNFists can be much more reputable compared to facilities without the same amenities or services. When choosing a long-term facility for your loved one, it’s important to check out the types of SNFists on the premises that can offer your family member some care they deserve.


Lightyear Health is relentlessly committed to redefining the aging process. We support the unique healthcare needs of seniors, in-person or via telemedicine. From behavioral health to pain management, we supplement the hard work that SNFists are putting in daily.


Hospitalist vs. SNFist

You may have heard the term “hospitalist” used interchangeably with SNFist. While there are some similarities, there are also some key differences. 


Hospitalists, as their name implies, work in a hospital setting. And while their skillsets overlap with SNFists often, those who work in post-acute care facilities such as nursing facilities have a number of different qualifications and challenges that differ from those that are found in a hospital.


Not to mention, hospitalists usually need to take on a more generalized approach to medicine whereas those who work in a SNF are much more specialized. Typically, those who work as SNFists focus their efforts on geriatric medicine or rehabilitative medicine.


With that said, there can be some overlap between these two positions. Sometimes, hospital facilities will have dedicated SNFists on hand to deal with specific challenges in relation to rehabilitation or aging. On the flipside, hospitalist physicians may be found in an SNF setting to provide more general care to residents or patients.


In Conclusion

SNFists are workers who do their jobs within the walls of a skilled nursing facility. While many SNFists work on the clinical side of the job, there are also a ton of people on the management staff who are just as necessary for allowing these facilities to run smoothly.


SNFists include registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and many other unique types of providers, including physical therapists and occupational therapists who are on-hand to provide physical rehab. Geriatric psychiatrists may also be on-site to administer treatments for alleviation of mental health conditions.


Also, dieticians and dietary aides play an essential component in providing your loved one care, as do individuals on the management team such as facility administrators.


SNFists are highly beneficial as they can provide specific and high quality care to your family members who are enrolled in a long-term care facility. But if you’re looking for a little bit of extra help, get in touch with our team at Lightyear Health to see how we can help to enhance your loved one’s experience in a skilled nursing facility.





Registered Nurse vs. Nurse Practitioner: Key Differences | Regis College


About Occupational Therapy | AOTA


Get the Facts on Elder Abuse | National Council on Aging


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