Recent calls1, 2, 3 for an increase in nursing staff levels may have providers wondering how to accomplish this. Under normal circumstances it can be challenging to find qualified individuals; the pandemic has added an off-putting level of danger to nursing home work. Two webinars hosted by McKnight’s Long-Term Care News last week offer clues to solving this problem.
In the first webinar, Kristen Baird, RN, BSN, MHA, discussed the importance of creating a corporate culture that encourages staff to remain with an organization rather than get tempted away by companies that pay an equal (or higher) minimum wage for easier work. In the second, HUB International’s Wendy King, director of Health and Performance, and Gigi Acevedo-Parker, National Practice leader, outlined ways to better address the mental health needs of residents and staff.
The juxtaposition of sessions reveals a path for long-term care to compete with other types of companies for low-wage workers.
Baird pointed out that caregivers aren’t in the field for the money but for the love of the residents. They stick with the job when they feel valued and respected for their efforts. Earning a living wage is clearly one way to show respect and to reduce turnover, but if an individual can earn the same amount flipping burgers that they can changing adult diapers, LTC needs to offer other incentives.
The key is mental health
An emphasis on mental health is the answer. When a facility attends to the mental health of the residents, workers have the experience of seeing elders thrive emotionally even while they may be declining physically. Caregivers are part of a gratifying cycle of life.
When a facility attends to the mental health of the staff, the job becomes part of their essential support system, one they don’t leave for a few dollars more down the block. The HUB professionals explained that part of mental health is addressing the challenges that workers experience in different areas of their lives, including financial problems, coping with stress and childcare.