As the editors of the June 2021 volume of The Gerontologist put it, “Workforce issues are the most significant challenges facing the long-term care industry.”
This special edition of the journal focuses on the long-term care workforce, examining factors that increase staff retention and mining the circumstances of the pandemic for clues to stabilizing the workforce into the future.
Some highlights from the publication, which was edited by Suzanne Meeks, Ph.D., FGSA, and Howard B. Degenholtz, Ph.D., FGSA, are included here.
Researchers Kennedy et. al. found that nursing home administrator turnover was associated with higher turnover in direct care workers; efforts to support administrators in their roles would therefore reap rewards beyond the retention of one individual. Nicholas Castle, Ph.D., a long-time investigator of nursing home staffing, found “support for the idea that retention is associated with better quality” and proposed looking at three- and five-year retention rates rather than shorter time frames to better assess benefits.
Anecdotally, I’ve observed that the development of team relationships can take well over a year, and it’s often three years before the aides treat me (and I’m assuming others) like I’m really one of them. This point about direct care staff is particularly relevant given issues to be addressed later in this column.
Most fascinating to me was the discussion by Kezia Scales, Ph.D., my latest researcher crush, in “It Is Time to Resolve the Direct Care Workforce Crisis in Long-Term Care” (interesting reading and not behind a paywall).
Scales states that “although high unemployment rates may stabilize the direct care workforce in the short term — and potentially improve LTC quality, as seen in previous recessions (Huang & Bowblis, 2019) — these gains will be temporary unless matched by sustained improvements in direct care job quality.”