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The Most Important Behavioral Skills in Long-Term and Home Healthcare

April 18, 2018

long-term-careThe demand for long term care and home care services continues to grow. The numbers are staggering. In 2010, 40 million Americans were age 65 or older. By 2050 that number is expected to jump to 88 million. The vast majority of these will require long-term care services, either in a nursing home, assisted living facility, adult day-care, or services in their home.

Talent Implications:

The current long-term care and home care resources are woefully inadequate to meet the tsunami of demand that is coming. Finding people to fill these jobs is going to be a challenge. We already know that keeping them is difficult. The turnover rate in long-term care historically runs much higher than other healthcare sectors – often from 55% to 75% for nurses and aides and sometimes close to 100% for aides alone.

Related: Seven Steps to Improving Employee Retention in Healthcare

Why is it hard to attract and retain talent?

  • The work is hard – physically, and often, emotionally.

  • The pay scale and benefits are not always competitive, especially when compared to relatively easier jobs.

These organizations need to get better at attracting, selecting and retaining people who can succeed in these roles. To learn more about recruiting and retention strategies, see our previous blog: The Demand for Long-Term Care Services and Staff is Growing. Are you Ready?

A Unique Mix of Behavioral Skills

Complicating matters is that employees providing care in these settings need a unique mix of skills to be successful. You could list of a few dozen desired skills, but working with our long-term care and home care clients, we’ve come up with a list to prioritize in the hiring process:

  • Dependability - At this level, dependability is critical. You can’t provide the care if you are understaffed on a given day. You need staff who will show up for work, on time. This often means juggling family, school, and work obligations. It can be hard. The employer often needs to be flexible, but the employee needs to be committed to the work, to co-workers, to the facility, and to patients and residents.

  • Integrity - We see it on the news all of the time – theft of resident and patient property. Caregivers are in a role of responsibility. You need to know they are inclined to do the right thing and behave with integrity.

  • Dignity and Respect - Similarly, residents and patients deserve, first and foremost, dignity and respect. This is more than a job. Staff are taking on the responsibility to take care of people they don’t, necessarily, know well, but the level of care and intimacy is significant. This is not your standard service job.

  • Patient/Resident Service - But it is, certainly a service job. The employee’s focus should be not on completing a list of tasks, but on meeting the needs of the patient and resident. The best employees make the extra effort, even when the patient and family may not be aware.

  • Patience and Adaptability - One of the things that makes the work so hard is that patients and residents can be frustrating. They are often confused, either due to illness or dementia. Family members can be demanding when they are under stress. Staff need to remain calm in difficult situations and some people do not have the right temperament.

  • Quality and Attention to Detail - When taking care of residents and patients, you don’t want people who don’t pay attention to details or care about the quality of their work. These characteristics have a direct impact on patient care and resident quality of life.

An Effective Selection System

If a loved one of yours has been in a long-term care facility or had home care or hospice care, you appreciate the value of good front line caregivers. They are entrusted with an important role and their patients and residents deserve outstanding care. It’s a challenge to find people who can do this work well. Fortunately, we can get better at it:

  • Build an application process, screening process, interview and behavioral assessment that allows you to evaluate whether a candidate is likely to be successful.

  • Even if the candidate pool is not deep, you aren’t going to accept anyone with a pulse – are you? (the right answer is “no”, by the way).

  • Granted, you may have to lower the bar farther than you’d like but you need to avoid bad hires and you need to understand the person you ARE hiring so you have reasonable expectations and can manage them for success.

Related: When Talent Shortage is Your #1 Concern

To learn more, download our whitepaper below:

nursing shortage

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren was the former Director of Healthcare Solutions at PSI. He was responsible for developing and promoting tools and services designed specifically for the unique challenges faced by healthcare organizations.