Foster relationships to improve staff retention

“God bless you,” an aide said to me the other day after I handed her a container of homemade green bean salad. She’d joined the same psychology-based weight loss program I was using and the green beans were my way of supporting her efforts.

She went on. “Some of the doctors don’t even say hello to us and here you are sharing food.”

“We’re all people working with the same goal, to help the residents,” I said. “Besides, I wouldn’t take it personally. Some of the doctors don’t say hello to me either.”

She laughed, and we each returned to our jobs. But, of course, it got me thinking. About staffing and hierarchies and silos, and about why people leave jobs and why they stay.

As McKnight’s Editorial Director John O’Connor pointed out last week in his column, “The Haddits have left the building,” increasing numbers of nursing home staff are leaving the field for reasons including low wages, other work options and feeling “like easily replaced cogs in a dysfunctional machine.”

Previously, in “The keys to reducing turnover in long-term care,” I noted factors associated with staff retention, including the ones below that involve strong relationships with coworkers and residents:

  • Motivating positive feelings between aides and residents
  • Perception of being valued by nurses and supervisors
  • Being considered an important part of the care team
  • Working as a team
  • Positive relationships with coworkers

These research findings suggest that efforts to foster relationships in the long-term care setting can pay off in reduced staff turnover. Somewhat different approaches may be needed for recent recruits than for long-time staff members.

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