If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that providers need to adapt to change if they want to succeed.
What individuals with disabilities need and expect from their care has evolved more in three years than it has in the four-plus decades since we founded GoodLife. Employee preferences are also changing, with employees seeking greater value and purpose at work.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that traditional approaches can no longer meet the demands of those with needs, caregivers, and providers. All of this points to the need for new and better models of care. Let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons innovation matters in the care industry and how that impacts the work you do.
1. The staffing crisis isn’t going away anytime soon.
The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t create the staffing crisis, but it did shine a spotlight on long-standing workforce issues in the care industry, such as high turnover rates and staffing shortages. Shortages are so severe in some parts of the country that nearly 8 in 10 providers are having to turn people away from services because they don’t have enough staff, meaning many individuals will not receive the care they need at all.
While many people became acutely aware of workforce issues during the pandemic, industry experts like GoodLife have been sounding the alarm for decades. Annual turnover rates for DSPs have hovered above 50% for the last 40 years. To put that in perspective, an agency with 100 staff would need to hire 50 new DSPs every year — or 500 DSPs over the course of a decade — just to maintain their staffing levels. The COVID-related exodus of employees simply underscores what we’ve been saying for years.
2. Current staffing and pay models are unsustainable.
This is true for both providers and caregivers.
With as many as one-in-five caregiving positions chronically vacant, providers often rely on managers and temp agencies to cover open shifts. Others patch together schedules with a workforce of nearly a third part-time staff. As a result, agencies don’t have enough employees to fill today’s openings, much less expand their capacity to meet tomorrow’s demands.
Contrary to what headlines might suggest, the problem isn’t a shortage of workers — it’s a shortage of people willing to accept the current pay and working conditions. Today, the average hourly wage for DSPs is only $13.05. (For comparison, Amazon is offering entry-level workers $19 an hour.) That, combined with unappealing schedules, a lack of benefits, stressful working conditions, and the inability to work remotely, has made direct care a much less attractive profession than other alternatives. In other words: If providers want to compete with the big guys for talent, they’re going to have to innovate — and fast.
3. Innovation improves the lives of DSPs and the individuals they serve.
Of course, innovations in staffing and service delivery do so much more than just stop the revolving door. They can make an enormous difference in the work environment and overall quality of life for DSPs. For instance, setting the average full-time workweek to three days (like we do here at GoodLife) instead of the traditional five gives employees more time off — eighteen days per month, to be exact. Just think what that means for someone like a single working mom.
On the client side, there’s also quite a bit of evidence that improving working conditions results in safer, more reliable care. One study, for example, found that increasing employee satisfaction boosted patient outcomes by as much as 20%. In this case, the science confirms what we all know from experience: that caregivers do better work and provide better care when they’re happy and invested in their jobs.
It’s a win-win all around.
It’s time to embrace innovation
While the care industry faces significant challenges such as staffing shortages, high turnover, and chronic vacancies, innovation offers a path forward. By exploring new and better models of care, providers can have a tremendous impact on the lives of caregivers and the individuals who rely on them for support.
Here at GoodLife, we’ve been working with our University of Kansas partners for nearly a half-century to develop and disseminate innovative workforce solutions that redefine what’s possible. If you are a provider looking to jumpstart innovation in your organization, learn how the GoodLife team can help.
For more than 30 years, Mike Strouse has led GoodLife Innovations, Inc., where he serves as President & CEO.
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