HealthFebruary 16, 2017

Reducing turnover in long-term care

If long-term care facilities are going to attract and retain quality clinical staff, incentives are essential.

Let’s be honest. Taking a job in long-term care is no joke. The work is physically demanding, the resident acuity is high, and for many clinical staff (especially aides) the pay isn’t great.

Talking to a gathering of nursing home administrators recently about staff turnover, Eleanor Feldman Barbera, PhD, of the website, challenged attendees with this question: If you could work as aide at your current salary, who would do it?

In a room full of hundreds, just one hand went up.

So why would we expect other people to do so at even lower rates of pay, autonomy and respect?

Of course, long-term care has its own intrinsic benefit, as anyone with a heart for the field can attest to. Helping people and making a different in their lives are invaluable rewards in themselves.

But if long-term care facilities are going to attract and retain quality clinical staff, they’re going to have to have to offer some incentives.

“To woo workers to the field—and keep them from the lure of relatively stress-free retail positions at the same pay—it might be time to re-envision our role as employers,” Dr. Barbera writes in McKnight’s.

Picture it: Life 101

In the piece, Dr. Barbera suggests long-term care sites consider playing up the opportunity to work with their unique patient population. Many residents have decades upon decades of life experience, and some are more than willing to share their hard-earned wisdom with curious caregivers.

She tells about a seminar at Harvard University that offers young adults guidance on how to make the most of the college experience as well as figuring out what they really want out of their lives.

“Imagine if part of joining your team included a class in how to make the most of the job experience and to ponder questions such as the ones asked in the Harvard seminar: ‘What does it mean to live a good life? What about a productive life? How about a happy life?’” Dr. Barbera writes.

“Our seminars could easily follow the university's model of three 90-minute discussion groups over the course of a year—and the time frame might help new employees through their initial anxiety about working with those at the end of life.”

Senior staffers, psychologists, and naturally the residents themselves could serve as the “professors” of the course, she continues—pointing out that potential residents and family members might consider such an opportunity a unique draw to an establishment.

Other possibilities

Dr. Barbera suggests other possible ways to attract and retain employees, such as offering

  • walking groups,
  • meditation classes,
  • an onsite gym,
  • onsite childcare,
  • flex scheduling, or
  • a carpooling program.

What’s more, residents could even be included in some of the activities (think meditation), spreading the benefits outward. The goal is to position the long-term care facility as a workplace in which staff can lead happy, productive work lives.

Every workplace is different, though. To find out what current (and hopefully future) employees would appreciate in unique job benefits at yours, simply ask them, Dr. Barbera encourages.

“We would be wise to highlight those elements that keep us energized about our own jobs,” she writes, “and to add enough additional encouragers so that we too would be satisfied to work as aides.”

What out-of-the-box benefits have been a hit with your employees?  Share about them in the comments below. We’d love to hear your unique successes!

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