Staffing in nursing homes and long-term care facilities has long been a challenge for facility owners. The long-term care industry has been plagued by high attrition rates and low satisfaction for decades. Staffing issues create risks within the industry – risks that affect fellow staff members and the facility residents that depend on quality care. Improving staff satisfaction is a powerful risk management tool that supplements the protections of nursing home insurance. Here is how you can bolster your efforts in improving staff satisfaction.
How Serious is the Staffing Crisis in Nursing Homes?
For decades, long-term care facilities have struggled to recruit and retain qualified caregivers. There are many factors leading to understaffing in these facilities, including:
- Lower-than-average salaries
- High workloads
- Competition with other healthcare sectors
- High levels of staff burnout
- Ever-increasing care demands from an aging population
In many nursing homes, chronic understaffing has forced managers to do more with less, thereby increasing the attrition rate as caregivers burn out and leave employment. There are significant consequences associated with understaffing; abuse and neglect risks increase when there are insufficient staff to handle the day-to-day demands of resident care. Even the best facilities experience higher levels of neglect claims – claims that can strain even the most robust nursing home insurance policy.
- Other consequences of understaffing include:
- An increase in resident hospitalizations.
- Physical and mental declines among residents.
- Stress-related illnesses and injuries on the part of staff members.
It is critical that nursing home managers find ways to boost staff satisfaction. By doing so, they can reduce the attrition rate and help to ensure quality care delivery for the residents who depend on caregivers for their daily needs.
Five Focus Areas for Improving Staff Satisfaction
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has published a guidebook to help nursing home managers improve staffing conditions. The guide, entitled Guide to Improving Nursing Home Employee Satisfaction, identifies five key areas for managers to focus on:
- Job Satisfaction
- Team Building & Communication
- Scheduling & Staffing
- Management & Leadership
The process of improving staffing satisfaction requires a top-down approach. The goal of improving staff satisfaction is to threefold: to improve staff work conditions, to improve care delivery for residents, and to reduce claims frequency on nursing home insurance policies.
Planning for Staff Improvements
Planning for any change is an essential component that helps determine the success or failure of any program. In preparing to improve staff satisfaction in nursing homes, the process begins with a detailed plan. When planning, there are several components to include:
- Identifying areas in need of improvement.
- Prioritization of improvement areas.
- Timelines for implementation of improvements.
- Monitoring employee satisfaction at regular intervals, particularly before and after changes have been made.
- Creating and maintaining communication channels between stakeholders.
Implementing the Staff Improvement Plan
Once a comprehensive plan has been developed, it is time to get to work on implementing the improvements. Improvements do not have to be sweeping; in many cases, incremental changes can have positive effects on staff satisfaction levels. The first improvement, of course, is by assessing staffing levels, then doing what is needed to improve those levels. It is crucial for nursing home managers to understand that poor staffing often leads to high attrition rates as well as increased claims of abuse and neglect on nursing home insurance policies. Think of improving staffing levels as an investment for the future and as a risk management tool – by having adequate staff and by recruiting talented individuals, those investments will pay off in long-term success for the facility.
There are many creative ideas for improving staff satisfaction, and many are cost-effective and easy to implement. Creative options include:
- Adding health and wellness programs for staff members to take part in.
- Offering stress-reduction training, including mindfulness and yoga activities.
- Ensuring adequate rest breaks and time off, allowing staff members to recharge their mental batteries.
- Providing incentives – monetary or bonus time off – when milestones are met.
- Engaging with staff members through regular meeting with managers and facility leaders.
- Establishing a strong and equitable reporting tool; this empowers staff members and gives them the perception of being an integral part of the facility improvement process.
Improving staff satisfaction in nursing homes is not an overnight process. This process can take time; as changes are made and programs are added or modified, these changes will have a net positive effect on satisfaction. Nursing home insurance can do only so much in protecting the assets of a long-term care facility. By adopting a process to improve staffing satisfaction, nursing home managers are setting the stage for safe workplaces and quality care for staff and residents alike.
About Caitlin Morgan
Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at (877) 226-1027.