Overcoming long-term care staffing challenges
A report published by Lightcast, “The Demographic Drought,” paints a clear picture of population trends in the U.S.
The report highlights that for over 50 years, the U.S. hasn’t made up for birth rates of the baby boomer generation, resulting in more retirees exiting the workforce than young people entering. Combined with a recent drop in immigration, this has left the U.S. with fewer and fewer young, working-aged people.
Over 50 million senior citizens live in the U.S., making up 16.5% of the total population. As baby boomers age, state populations are seeing an increase in residents over 65 and will likely see almost double the amount of nursing home residents by 2030.
The bureau believes the main factors causing an increase in demand for long-term care are population shifts, increasing life expectancies and the increased risk of injuries and disabilities that these create.
Challenges for long-term care facilities
The last of the baby boomer generation turns 65 in 2030, and because they represent a larger percentage of the population than previous aging generations, the long-term care industry will face new challenges and growth over the next decade.
This same generation’s life expectancy rose from an additional 12 years to 19 years. As would be expected, this increased life expectancy comes with greater risk for fragility, injuries and disabilities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, disabilities affect two in five adults over the age of 65. The National Center for Health Statistics expects that by the year 2065, the number of older people with physical or cognitive disabilities will grow by almost 150%, from 6.3 million to 15.7 million.
This demand for care continues to grow amid a worldwide population workforce shortage. The National Investment Center reports that skilled nursing occupancy has still failed to reach pre-pandemic numbers, but this gap between current skilled nursing occupancy and pre-pandemic occupancy isn’t due to lack of need but rather due to lack of staff.
Senior Housing News interviewed 224 long-term care organizations nationally, and 62% said staffing will be the No. 1 issue facing operators this year, while 78% believe that staffing will have the greatest impact on expenses in the next 12 months. Staffing may not be as bleak as it was during the COVID-19 pandemic, but senior living operators still believe they must think creatively to attract, retain and engage staff.
Despite these staffing challenges in healthcare, the Biden administration is also proposing a minimum nursing home staffing requirement. The administration released a study of one state’s nursing facilities where increasing nurse staffing by just 20 minutes per resident daily was associated with 22% fewer confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 26% fewer COVID-19 deaths.
How you can retain and attract talent
There is no magic bullet to solve the global staffing crisis, but organizations can start by looking inward at retention initiatives to reduce turnover and drive employee engagement. These initiatives will also make it easier to recruit as you develop a reputation for having a quality workplace.
Here are three ways your organization can address employee engagement and staffing issues:
1. Leadership development
If you want your employees to remain engaged, look at your leadership. Gallup studies since 2000 continue to show that leaders are the drivers of engagement.
So, what’s the answer? Develop your leaders. How? Well, first, you need to develop your leadership, and for that, you need to invest in your people. If you’re organization is experiencing high turnover, you are investing — just poorly.
The solution is a fundamental shift in the understanding of a leader’s role and the actual, practical behaviors that go with that shift.
The primary shift is to see developing people as the No. 1 job of a leader. It’s not enough to be good at their specialty — leaders need to own their relationships and the outcomes created by the people who report to them.
Leaders also need to recognize that team performance reflects their performance. They need to set clear expectations and develop those around them to create increased capacity.
Making the right investment in your leaders allows them to invest in your people and create a more engaged and productive workforce.
2. Data and technology
With increasing volumes and decreasing staff, it’s essential to have good data to support critical choices.
Data-based decision-making requires a trusted, single source of truth with highly intuitive information and real-time insights. These insights help ensure alignment with goals and can identify ways to improve efficiency and maximize impact, both at leadership levels and on the front lines.
Data can also help organizations become more proactive instead of reactive, especially as it pertains to retaining staff. Predictive analytics can be leveraged to identify staff at high risk for turnover so that proactive retention strategies can be implemented.
These advanced analytics capabilities are also valuable for improving staffing and scheduling models. They can help you account for growing volumes and staffing shortages and design clinical alerts to decrease high-risk events.
For staffing gaps, technology can help by optimizing workflows as well as automating tasks. Introducing automation, especially for tasks associated with data and reporting, helps maximize employee’s unique skills by freeing up resources for value-added work. It also provides increased quality and consistency in deliverables and minimizes the risk associated with employee turnover.
3. Mergers and acquisitions
Mergers and acquisitions activity is stronger than ever in the long-term care market.
Between 2017 and August 2021, market intelligence group Definitive Healthcare recorded over 1,100 mergers and acquisitions news stories across approximately 860 assisted living, home health, hospice and skilled nursing facilities.
The right merger and acquisition can help you bring more people into your organization. You can also look for opportunities to bring in individuals with the leadership or technology skills your organization needs.
How Wipfli can help
Wipfli helps senior service providers to position themselves to remain solvent while seeking new avenues for growth.
Our consultants understand the pressures placed on your leadership team. And we can offer support for the challenges you’ll face while increasing your market share through partner alignment, embracing new payment structures and leveraging technology. Contact us to learn more about our proven solutions for healthcare providers.
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