With skilled nursing facing a labor crunch that could explode into a full-scale crisis, one major provider association has launched a Center for Workforce Solutions.
Washington, D.C.-based LeadingAge — an organization with more than 6,000 members, mostly consisting of non-profit senior care providers — officially announced the Center for Workforce Solutions last week. It will be led by Susan Hildebrandt, hired as LeadingAge’s vice president of workforce initiatives in December 2016.
“I see [the center] as a one-stop shop,” Hildebrandt told Skilled Nursing News at the LeadingAge IL conference in Chicago last April. Specifically, she views the center’s website as a place to collect best practices and resources to help providers across the senior care spectrum recruit and retain caregivers and other workers.
Resources currently on the website include a turnover cost calculator, background articles on workforce issues, and materials to present to high schoolers to introduce them to senior care careers. The website will be continuously updated, Hildebrandt said.
LeadingAge founded the center due to providers’ concerns: A lack of qualified applicants for vacancies, competitive wages, and staff turnover all were cited as top challenges in a recent survey of members. These labor concerns have become sharper as the economy overall has improved, with retailers, fast food restaurants, and other employers hiring.
“A lot of people remember when the economy was bad, people were clamoring to work in nursing homes,” Hidebrandt said. “Then it improved, and they said, ‘I want to work in a store.’ Now, [providers] have to confront this head-on.”
There are no easy answers to solving the workforce issue, but in addition to efforts like the new center, Hildebrandt believes that an industry-wide brand awareness push is needed. The idea is to positively differentiate senior care settings from other workplaces, such as hospitals or restaurants. For instance, in long-term care, workers have the opportunity to develop lasting relationships with residents rather than fleetingly serve patients as they would in a hospital.
“How do we make aging services more appealing, so the culture — meaning, how you’re spending the day — seems like a more valuable experience, rather than, say, working in fast food or retail?” she said.
Written by Tim Mullaney