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Investing in Quality Jobs to Address Staffing Crisis in Long-Term Care

May 26, 2016

With the aging of the Baby Boom generation, direct-care workers — i.e., home care aides and nursing assistants — have never been more in demand. But, as any long-term care organizational leaders can tell you, it’s getting harder and harder to recruit and retain good workers. This is true across long-term care settings. Home Care Pulse reports a median caregiver turnover rate of nearly 60 percent in private duty home care organizations, and deep concern over staff shortages among providers. The latest data from nursing homes shows a 52 percent turnover rate. It seems every day another newspaper is publishing an article on caregiver shortages.

High turnover among direct-care workers has plagued long-term care providers for decades. Despite the impact of turnover on quality, the long-term care field has not gotten to the root of the problem, and therefore, the situation persists. We need to look carefully at the fundamental elements of a quality job: compensation, support, and opportunities for advancement. How can we embrace these elements within the context of direct-care work?

The Emerging “Triple Threat”

In the Spring 2016 issue of Generations, PHI founder Steven Dawson describes what he calls the “triple threat,” which he sees as an incentive for all stakeholders to reassess the employment strategy for direct care. He describes, first, the growing demand for long-term care services. Second, the shrinking pool of eligible direct-care workers: the demographic group that has historically taken most direct-care jobs (women ages 25-54) is not expected to grow very much in the coming years. And finally, he notes, the unemployment rate continues to fall, meaning that fewer job seekers will be lining up at the door to apply for difficult, low-wage direct-care work.

Register for PHI’s WebinarAttention long-term care organizational leaders: Sign up today for PHI’s June 21 webinar, Retaining Workers in an Increasingly Competitive Environment!

In the face of this “triple threat,” vacancies are growing, putting long-term care business interests as well as consumers at risk. When an agency can’t fill a customer request, it loses income. When a nursing home is short-staffed, it places both residents and staff at risk. When consumers can’t get the care and support they need, their safety and health may be compromised.

So, in the face of the triple threat, how can long-term care employers recruit and retain the workforce necessary to care for America’s growing elder population? Better wages are essential to bringing workers into the field, but to keep workers, employers need to do more. They need to invest in better training, on-the-job mentoring and supervisory support, shared responsibility in decision-making, and opportunities for advancement.

PHI Offers New Strategies

Long-term care leaders who want to compete in today’s market are reinventing their workforce strategies. PHI begins by training the entire organization in leadership and communication skills that help to create a respectful workplace culture. We then focus on supervisory staff, and developing the skills needed to establish supportive relationships with workers while helping them become more effective caregivers and problem solvers. Finally, we help to put mentoring programs and a host of other interventions in place, which provide a career path for senior workers while also providing support for new employees.

Join us June 21, at 2 pm, for the PHI June 21 webinar “Retaining Workers in an Increasingly Competitive Market.” Our experts will explore current demographic data, as well as PHI’s own evidence-based interventions, that can give your organization an edge in the ever-more-difficult task of retaining a qualified, competent direct-care workforce.

— by Susan Misiorski, PHI National Director of Coaching and Consulting Services

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