more baby boomers begin to age into senior facilities,
employment in the field of long-term care is
experiencing substantial growth.
Bureau of Labor Statistics says the job market in health
care is expected to expand by nearly 20 percent per year
through the year 2024. That’s great news for job
seekers. But many senior care facilities are learning
that the ease of finding a new job has led to a serious
problem: high levels of staff turnover.
Nationwide, reported turnover rates for nurses and
nursing assistants at long-term care residences are
consistently over 50 percent. The Department of Labor
Statistics says that, taken alone, the nurse’s aide
turnover rate at long-term care facilities was 31
percent higher compared to other nursing staff. The
impact is costly both for the facility and for the
residents. Finding and training new employees can cost
upward of 30 percent of an employee’s annual salary.
Overall, it is estimated to cost the industry more than
$25 billion annually.
lot of money — and that’s only half the story. The true
impact is on the residents. For them, staff turnover is
much more than a statistic. Any sudden change in a
caregiver can have negative physical and emotional
effects on residents, as established, trusted bonds and
routines are broken and a new person learns their needs
with the problem and retain valued members of their
staff, successful senior facilities not only train new
members to deal with the patients, but they help them
deal with the physical and mental toll of their
positions and offer other incentives for them to keep
them in place.
Getting Off To A Strong Start
staff that stays begins in the hiring process. Most
senior centers screen applicants, looking for a strong
employment history and a commitment to working with the
elderly. Failing to understand what the job entails
often leads to people leaving shortly after taking a
position. New recruits at Cedar Community in West Bend
perform job shadows, whereby the candidate follows a
current team member to see what the job truly entails.
“This way there are fewer surprises when they start
working, especially if they have never worked in senior
health care before,” says Director of Nursing Heather
Suarez Del Real. “We look for someone who has a great
deal of empathy, is very caring, and who is team
problem is that jobs are plentiful,” says Renee
Anderson, president and CEO of Saint John’s on the Lake
in Milwaukee. “It’s easy to move, whether the motivator
is wages, benefits, schedule, workload, shift,
co-workers or supervisors. Many nursing employees hold
multiple jobs, so loyalties and relationships are not
Russo Chadek, director of human resources at Milwaukee
Catholic Home, says there is also a shortage of people
willing to work in the field for other reasons.
“Generally speaking, it can be hard, heavy and
emotionally challenging work with rewards that do not
always outweigh some of the requirements of the job,”
Benefits Beyond The Norm
onto their best employees, senior living centers are
becoming more creative. Chadek says Milwaukee Catholic
Home offers recruitment bonuses and retention bonuses,
“as well as outstanding and affordable insurance options
and a retirement plan that offers an employer match and
a discretionary contribution. We also offer generous
time off with pay plans, and employees get free meals on
campus every day.”
Wauwatosa’s Lutheran Home, the staff is trained to work
in different units, offered flexibility in scheduling
and given use of the healing garden, outdoor courtyard,
café and chapel.
Community offers use of their lakefront beach house and
cabin to team members. “We also have pontoon boats that
our staff can be trained to captain and rent for their
families,” says Suarez Del Real. “Our fitness center and
pool have employee hours, and we have a full-service
pharmacy that offers discounts on medications and
over-the-counter products. We have an urgent care clinic
that is staffed four days a week and can be used by our
team members at no charge.” Cedar Community also
recently redesigned its staff break room, adding Wi-Fi
and computers, and new relaxation areas where staff can
sit and take some time to decompress.
Recently, St. Camillus in Wauwatosa remodeled its staff
break areas to make them more attractive to workers.
Now, in addition to quiet break rooms with comfortable
seating, the areas have two on-site cafés where staff
can socialize, plus low cost access to the on-site
fitness center. “We also offer tuition reimbursement up
to $2,000 per year and have awarded four college
scholarships to employees or their children in 2018,”
says Kevin Schwab, CEO of St. Camilllus. “In the past
three years, we fully paid for nine employees to become
certified nursing assistants.”
John’s, every member of the staff receives a quarterly
performance evaluation tied to a bonus and opportunities
for continuing education through a foundation that gives
scholarships in the range of $20,000 annually to
employees pursuing their education in nearly any field.
Good Word For Good Work
keeping morale high also helps keep quality staff
John’s uses a system of thank-you notes where residents
can publically share their gratitude to specific staff
members. Cedar Community has a similar system called
“Bravo Branches,” in which families and residents can
leave a note of thanks or appreciation and hang it on
one of the Bravo Branches to recognize the team as a
whole or a particular staff member.
have a ‘random acts of appreciation’ group that will
randomly deliver gift bags of treats to different
departments while sharing a word of thanks for being
such amazing team members,” says Anderson.
short, caring for the caregivers helps senior centers
retain good employees longer. Today’s best centers
understand that they need to be competitive and
compassionate to attract and hold onto qualified staff.
And they know that if they succeed, not only will their
residents benefit, but their bottom line will too.