Are You Making These Staffing Mistakes in Your Senior Care Facility?

Marina Aslanyan

Marina Aslanyan, CEO of SmartLinx

Part 1 of a 2-part series on common staffing mistakes to avoid at senior care facilities

Given the staffing challenges facing the senior care industry, it’s more important than ever that senior care organizations support their employees in multiple ways. Whether that’s a well-thought-out hiring process or attention to the workplace culture and benefits offered, senior care organizations need to focus on attracting and retaining quality staff. 

That’s often easier said than done, and simple mistakes and oversights can contribute to staffing challenges. Here, we talk to several experts who share the most common mistakes they see senior care organizations making and we explore the impacts of those mistakes. Keeping these in mind when making staffing decisions will help avoid them in the first place. In part two of this series, we’ll highlight strategies to fix staffing mistakes that have already been made.  

Common Staffing Mistakes in Senior Care

Brian Robinson, director of talent acquisition & associate engagement for LCB Senior Living, explains that staffing mistakes can start as early as during the hiring process. He explains that rushing the hiring process, or worse, not selecting the right candidate to joint a team, can impact the community in many ways. “Each hire we make as a company is another investment forward in providing great services to our residents and families,” he explains. “The investment in a good hire is priceless. It is our job to ensure that every associate is engaged in the mission and that they truly believe in giving our seniors the opportunity to live their best lives.” 

According to Rebecca Love, RN, MSN, FIEL, chief clinical officer of IntelyCare, common staffing issues arise because the senior care industry hasn’t yet responded to some of the monumental challenges resulting from the pandemic. “We know that about 400,000 people have left work in the long-term care industry since the pandemic,” she explains. “I think we’re trying to operate the way we did when we had those employees still in the system. There has to be an understanding that business is not operating the way it was before.” 

If senior care organizations operate as they did in 2019, they overlook several key differences that affect staffing today. Love notes that external competition from hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other locations with better pay can draw long-term care employees away from the field. “We are not providing the flexibility or the support for the frontline in a way that would retain them and make them feel valued,” she notes. 

Marina Aslanyan, CEO of SmartLinx, notes that it’s essential for senior care organizations to recognize the changing needs of their employees, too. “Health care workers crave more flexibility and control over their schedules, finances, and overall work/life balance,” she says. “Organizations that aren’t paying attention to their employees’ needs are more likely to experience staffing challenges – from care gaps to employee burnout.” 

She explains that some senior care organizations attempt to manage costs at the expense of employee burnout, rather than creating a flexible staffing model that better supports staff needs. The result can be increased staffing shortages, lower quality patient care, and lower facility ratings. 

Aslanyan also explains that being reactive in using agency partners to fill sudden and unexpected staffing gaps is a mistake. Instead, senior care organizations would be wise to take a more proactive approach to the staffing pipeline. “This includes hiring more full time staff who are working fewer hours, working with agency partners to ensure consistent third-party coverage, and having a full and flexible staffing pipeline that can adapt to changes quickly,” she says. 

Love highlights the importance of designing shifts that truly work for staff. “The average nurse is 50 to 55 years old. It’s an aging demographic,” she explains. “If you’re in your sixties, you can’t work the way you used to work, and that’s 50% of our population.” Love encourages senior care organizations to look at redesigning shifts that work for the staff, whether that’s starting at a different time so those with kids can drop them off at school first, or making shifts shorter. 

The Effects of Staffing Mistakes

Unfortunately, these staffing mistakes can have serious implications for senior care organizations and the industry as a whole. Love notes that continuously asking staff to do more with less can have a negative impact on staff morale, which, in turn, impacts patient care and quality.  

“The reason why CNAs and nurses got into the space is because they love the care they’re able to provide. They love spending time with patients, getting to know them, and alleviating the pain that the population feels,” she explains. “What happens when you keep burdening them with excess tasks and charting and things that take them away from being able to provide that care? This job is no longer a calling. It demoralizes them because it prevents them from being able to provide this care.” 

Overworking staff can lead to additional problems, explains Aslanyan. Those issues include both human error and burnout. “For nurses, errors are more likely to occur when they work long hours and suffer from fatigue and distractions that affect their performance,” she says. “In senior care facilities, these mistakes can make it challenging to stay on task and attend to residents. 

Staffing mistakes can contribute to high turnover rates, and high turnover can also impact the remaining employees. According to Aslanyan, a nurse who stays when colleagues are leaving could feel resentful of their job or wonder if there is a better opportunity elsewhere. “If their job responsibilities increase and people leave, they are likely to have lower levels of on-the-job satisfaction,” she says. 

It’s easy to see why these staffing issues occur, especially as senior care organizations work to cope with the changing workforce. In part two of this series, we’ll share solutions to some of these most common staffing mistakes. 

Read part 2 here: Use These Strategies to Fix Common Staffing Mistakes at Your Senior Care Organization

Topics: Clinical , Featured Articles , Resident Care , Staffing