Optimizing your existing staff is vital to providing quality patient care
The healthcare industry was already facing a growing shortage of nursing talent before the pandemic. Since then about one in five healthcare workers have left their jobs. Despite leaders’ best efforts to retain and attract staff, with fewer people joining healthcare professions than leaving them, we’re reaching crisis levels, particularly in senior care.
In fact, about a third of the nation’s 15,000 nursing homes recently reported a shortage of nurses or aides, says the AARP. And according to another survey, only 1% of nursing homes and 4% of assisted living facilities say they are fully staffed, while 89% of nursing homes and 82% of assisted living facilities are experiencing moderate or severe shortages.
With the unemployment rate at a decades-low rate and forecasts having it drop even further in 2022, along with an abundance of jobs, everyone has options. We could continue to see talented senior care nurses and aides quit for greener pastures and that puts patient care at risk.
What can you do about it?
Ultimately, it starts with continuing to take care of your people. We know you are working hard to do everything you can to attract and retain employees, from evaluating pay and benefits to putting policies in place that encourage work/life balance. We also recommend the following to maximize your existing staff—while prioritizing their needs—to support your efforts.
Keep staff mentally and physically healthy
Staff can’t care for patients effectively if they are burned out, and your staff is likely feeling the burn after nearly two years of dealing with the pandemic. A recent study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Washington Post found that roughly half of nursing home staff have reported feeling burned out.
Long shifts, mandatory overtime, little control over their schedule, and excessive workloads are driving them to the brink. Simple actions like making sure you are recognizing how hard they work, being more transparent about the challenges your facility is facing, and enabling them to collaborate in the scheduling process can go a long way to reducing their stress.
It’s also critical to take extra precautions to keep them from getting sick. After all, if they are out sick, they can’t help patients. However, illness prevention goes beyond precautions for COVID and the flu. For example, emptying bedpans, helping residents use the bathroom, washing residents and changing bed pads invite risk for infections and illnesses, including hepatitis A, meningitis, C. diff and rotavirus.
Look at all your processes from top to bottom and see how you can better protect staff from all illnesses and prevent healthcare-associated infections.
Help them do more with less time and resources
We cannot reinforce enough how much time nurses and aides spend on time-wasting tasks and outdated processes. Time that could be better spent providing better care to patients. Eliminating even seemingly small inefficiencies add up to big time-savers.
For example, if your nurses and aides are dumping bedpans in in-room toilets and using spray wands to clean them or they’re carrying bedpans to centralized locations, they’re wasting time and likely spreading germs.
Pinpoint other time-wasters by having an open and honest conversation with your staff. Ask them “What can we be doing better?” “How can we help you work more efficiently?” Then do what you can to put new, reasonable measures in place to simplify the work and update outdated methods.
Take the next step
While the worker shortage in senior care is a complex problem, acknowledging your staff’s hard work and empowering them to offer solutions are pivotal steps in boosting morale, which you know, is vital for retention.
Doing what you can to keep them healthy and ease their workload is also vital—and that’s something we can help you with.
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