Strategies to Maintain Staff-Resident Relationships During Times of High Turnover

Sharon Thole, senior vice president, Health Dimensions Group

It’s challenging for any senior care facility to navigate periods of high staff turnover. Covering shifts, hiring and training new staff, and maintaining team and employee morale and relationships are just a few of the challenges.

But high turnover rates also have a significant effect on staff-resident relationships. Residents can be left feeling uncertain, unsupported, and upset at the departure of staff who they have built relationships with over months or years.

If your facility undergoes significant staff turnover, it’s important to take multiple steps to address staff-resident relationships.

Be Open with Communication

When you learn that a staff member will be resigning, be open and honest with the residents under that staff member’s care. Sharon Thole, senior vice president of Health Dimensions Group, advocates for honest, transparent communication during these times. “We openly communicate any resignations of key staff members,” states Thole.

This open communication serves multiple purposes. It removes any confusion that could surround a staff member’s departure. It also gives residents time to emotionally prepare for the transition that’s about to happen and an opportunity to say goodbye.

Strategically Hire New Staff

Residents will naturally compare new staff to their previous caregivers, so it’s important to hire talented people to fill those newly vacant roles. When it comes to finding new employees, Thole turns to her existing staff.

“We believe the best hires are of those recommended by other staff,” she states. “We encourage our staff to refer their friends and relatives to work at our communities, as family taking care of family creates the best working and care environment.”

Facilitate Introductions to New Staff

Quickly hiring new staff is particularly important in this situation. Not only will having new staff help ensure coverage of all shifts, but it also creates an opportunity where the departing staff can help to facilitate the transition, introducing the new staff to residents. Departing staff may even be able to help with a new staff member’s training, providing insights that can help them to better get to know and build relationships with residents.

Create a Staff Mentorship Program

Implementing a staff mentorship program can help with training new staff as well as with helping to introduce new staff to residents. Thole explains, “We use mentors to train new staff members. This allows new staff to get to know our residents and their routines.”

Having new staff shadow existing staff can help them to learn the details and styles of caregiving that residents are used to for a smoother transition. In some cases, residents may even value the opportunity to help explain their own routines or needs to new staff during their training.

Focus on Consistency

During this time, try to maintain consistency in other areas. If one staff member is leaving, work to ensure that a resident’s other caregivers remain the same. “I encourage consistent assignments with staffing,” Thole explains. “Same unit, same resident assignments help with continuity of care.” This consistency can help to minimize some of the stress of this transitional period for residents.

Periods of high staff turnover will always be stressful, so it’s important to do what you can to support residents and help them through these transitions.

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