The long-term care industry has long been plagued with staffing shortages. Nursing home managers have scrambled to find solutions, implementing practices and strategies to attract top talent and to retain them. Addressing staffing shortages is a key component of risk management, helping to protect against liability risks in the same way that nursing home insurance provides liability coverage. Scheduling practices may point the way to improved staff retention; in this guide, we will explore the role of scheduling on creating a robust, dedicated workforce that slashes attrition rates.
How Bad is the Nursing Home Staff Shortage?
Shortages in staffing through reduced acquisition and attrition have profound effects on care delivery in long-term care facilities like nursing homes. Numerous studies have been conducted on the phenomenon; In an article published in Med Care in 2010, researchers pegged turnover rates in nursing homes to be as much as 100%, especially among CNAs. The range among all caregivers sits between 55% and 75%.
What causes staffing shortages? There are many factors, including:
- High workloads arising from complex patient needs and attrition in fellow caregivers.
- Lower pay rates as compared to other healthcare sectors.
- Unfavorable workplace conditions.
- Poor workplace management.
- Management turnover.
- Caregiver burnout.
- Scheduling issues.
It is this latter aspect that demands increased focus. Scheduling practices can influence the success or failure of a nursing home and help reduce the liabilities associated with inadequate staffing levels. Scheduling can even help to supplement the protections afforded by nursing home insurance in shielding facilities from a wide range of liability risks.
The Role of the Scheduling Coordinator
In some of the most advanced and successful nursing homes, scheduling is handled by a dedicated coordinator. This individual is typically a senior member of the management team and is often an RN or nurse practitioner with experience in staffing issues. A good scheduling coordinator will take into account the unique strengths and skills of each staff member, then use that information to match those attributes with the needs of the facility’s residents.
Scheduling coordinators are tasked with:
- Managing attendance records.
- Scheduling shifts.
- Working with staffing agencies as needed.
- Reviewing time-off requests.
Above all, a nursing scheduling coordinator ensures that all shifts have adequate staffing, helping to reduce the risks associated with insufficient workforces. Just like nursing home insurance, a dedicated scheduling coordinator is a risk management investment.
Changing the Staffing Mindset
One of the key ways nursing homes can improve the workplace environment is by changing the way that staff is viewed. In any business, staff are valuable assets and are crucial to the success in operations. Unfortunately, too many businesses – including long-term care facilities like nursing homes – treat staff as replaceable commodities. This can have unfortunate consequences; staff grow to feel that they are not appreciated or listened to, and attrition rates rise. Without adequate staffing, liability exposures increase, potentially resulting in expensive claims against nursing home insurance policies. Instead, approach your staff members as valuable members of the operation – members who bring skill, compassion, and care to the healthcare delivery environment.
Scheduling can improve the workplace by focusing on the needs and availability of staff members as well as the specific needs/demands of the facility. This goes for recruitment as well; being upfront about the types of work and the shifts available can help engage staff members. Ultimately, flexibility in scheduling can reinforce a positive workspace attitude by letting staff members know that their contributions are valued. This encourages them to stay with the facility, slashing attrition rates.
Innovating with Scheduling Models
A growing trend in the long-term care industry is that of using scheduling models to achieve balance in staffing levels. Three of these models stand out:
- The forever schedule, where caregivers work consistent hours and with the same residents on a predictable schedule.
- Week to week scheduling, where shifts and tasks vary by week.
- Weekend program scheduling, where alternating weekends spread out some of the more unpopular shifts among staff members.
Each of these models have their advantages, particularly in allowing staff members to choose which shifts and frequencies are right for their needs. Whether a caregiver desires a consistent schedule or likes to mix it up with varying schedules, coordinators can adjust scheduling as needed to meet the needs of residents and staff alike. With staff scheduling reaching new levels of focus as a risk management tool, the protections of nursing home insurance are enhanced.
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.