An Unlikely Solution for Senior Living Staff Turnover Rates

Updated 11.9.21 from a post originally published 3.26.18

Senior living employee turnover has long been a challenge for the industry.

Since the onset of the pandemic, senior living communities have faced unprecedented problems in the way they care for their residents, support their staff, and run their communities.

As communities struggle through changing health regulations and mitigating variants of the virus, employee turnover has only worsened. Across the board, 96 percent of assisted living facilities face staffing shortages.

But there is qualified staff available. In fact, the unemployment rate for certified nursing assistants (CNAs) grew from 36 percent in 2019 to 48 percent in 2020, and turnover followed a similar trend. Overall assisted living staff turnover increased from 44 percent in 2019 to 53 percent in 2020.

Senior living staff turnover is not only hard on your residents, but can also put a strain on your business, staff morale, and your bottom line. If you’re thinking about how to combat senior living staff shortages and decrease nursing turnover costs in your community, you’ll need to take a holistic approach.

Prioritize Staff Wellness to Lower Nursing Turnover and CNA Burnout Rates

Emotionally supporting your staff, including CNAs, nurses, and resident assistants is one way to sustain a mutually beneficial relationship and improve staff retention rates. Prioritizing staff wellness has become particularly important throughout the pandemic, as many CNAs have taken on more job responsibilities because of how many senior living communities are short-staffed.

Since the start of the pandemic, over 93 percent of healthcare workers expressed feelings of stress, 76 percent expressed feelings of exhaustion, and 39 percent of healthcare workers said they did not feel they had adequate emotional support.

To relieve some of this pressure, adopt support programs or professional training. Something as simple as organizing a quarterly staff appreciation event can allow your team to reconnect and decompress outside of working hours.

Because of the additional workload care staff have, supporting your employees’ mental health is vital to reducing nursing turnover and CNA burnout. Consider providing mental health counseling to combat burnout and pandemic-related trauma, and make an effort to stay in touch with employee morale.

You can even build trust by implementing easy ways for your staff to express work-related concerns before they become reasons your staff looks for employment elsewhere. These relatively small steps can also help your bottom line: Deloitte estimates that the cost of employee turnover is typically 1.5-2 times the employee’s salary.

Offer Robust Benefits to Reduce Nursing Turnover

While senior living communities have historically struggled to retain employees, there are ways to tackle this issue. Consider upgrading your compensation and benefits packages to include:

  • Increased hourly wages
  • Better health care benefits
  • Signing bonuses
  • Career certifications
  • Shortened performance review periods to add bonus opportunities
  • Improved workplace communication

If you’re not convinced these changes will make a difference, consider that incentivizing your current staff to stay with better benefits will also advance your recruitment efforts.

A recent survey by LivingPath found that in Salt Lake City, only 17.5 percent of senior living communities offered a signing bonus, which is well worth the investment when you consider the cost of paying temporary workers who may not continue on after the end of their contract. By expanding your benefits, you can demonstrate your commitment to employee wellness and take concrete steps to reduce issues like CNA burnout and nursing turnover.

Use Technology to Improve Your Work Environment

Tangible benefits like improved wages and signing bonuses are great recruiting incentives. But you can also gain efficiencies and improve employee wellness by looking at day-to-day job functions. For example, improving workplace communication to streamline responsibilities is one way to create a better overall work environment and encourage your employees to stick around.

You can also use technology to increase operational efficiency and trim down your care staff’s to-do list. This can look like…

  • HIPAA-compliant electronic medical records that allow care staff to easily access and update health status. 
  • Mobile apps like Point of Care that let clinical staff securely update health and wellness information in real time, without having to access a desktop computer.

For residents, integrating technology gives them more autonomy and responsibility in taking care of themselves. Solutions like voice technology or digital activity calendars keep them updated on community events and announcements.

Take a Holistic Approach to Improve Staff Retention

Prioritizing employee wellness will not only benefit your bottom line and your reputation but may also help with retention. Forty-eight percent of assisted living providers said that improved perceptions of working in the industry would help with recruitment efforts.

While adopting new technologies and implementing new operations can be temporarily disruptive, improving efficiency and streamlining operations is one way to lower your nursing turnover costs.

Caremerge provides a number of senior living technology integrations to improve your community and lower nursing turnover costs. If you’re looking for ways to upgrade your senior living community,

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