Connections - 05.01.23

Is Staffing the Key to Solving the Care Crisis?

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Providing safe, supervised, affordable care has never been easy. But these days, sometimes it feels downright impossible.

More than half a million people are on waiting lists for home- and community-based services. And that number is expected to grow, as $265 billion worth of care shifts from traditional facilities to private homes and the community by 2025.

Despite the demand for care, 6 out of 10 providers have had to cut services due to insufficient staffing. This means that people who want to move out of facilities can’t, and those who receive services in the community may suffer from poorer care.

But until we invest in fixing the industry’s long-standing staffing problems, we won’t be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Here’s why we believe a stable, full-time workforce is the key to solving the care crisis:

1. More full-time staff equals less turnover and higher quality of care.

Currently, a third of the direct care workforce is employed part-time. Simply increasing the number of full-time caregivers could dramatically improve the quality of care. How?

For starters, full-time staff get to know their role and the people they serve better. They’re more familiar with the person’s home and unique needs and preferences. In turn, individuals and families benefit from having a consistent caregiver who they know and trust.

Offering more full-time positions can also help solve the industry’s turnover problem. Instead of working a day shift at McDonald’s, going home to shower, and running out the door to work a midnight shift in a person’s home, full-time caregivers can earn a full paycheck at one job.

Full-time staff also have more regular schedules and better access to employee benefits — two commonly cited reasons why over 50% of DSPs leave the industry every year.

2. Stable, full-time staffing can help reduce the cost of care.

Some providers mistakenly believe that relying on part-time caregivers gives them more scheduling flexibility and saves them money. In reality, the opposite is usually true once you factor in things like turnover.

Studies show that the cost of replacing an employee is one-half to two times their annual pay. This includes the cost of recruiting, hiring, and training new staff, as well as overtime and temp agencies.

To put that in perspective, a provider with 100 DSPs that pays the industry average of $13.05 an hour and has industry-typical turnover could spend $680,000 to $2.7 million per year replacing its employees.

In other words: Stabilizing your workforce and reducing reliance on part-time positions means you can provide affordable care for consumers while paying your current staff better within the same payroll budget.

3. A stable workforce increases providers’ capacity for care.

Thanks to the revolving door of turnover, providers are always hiring new people. Of course, it takes time for these new hires to get up to speed — and in the interim, productivity suffers.

Think of it this way: Whenever you’re training a new employee, you’re essentially paying two employees to do the job of one, at least for a period of time. This means you’re forced to either cut training short and leave the new hire to figure things out without much supervision or pull experienced employees away from their usual tasks.

Even once they’re fully trained, new and inexperienced caregivers are more likely to make mistakes — similar to how new drivers are most likely to get in an accident. A stable workforce bypasses both these problems, allowing providers to supply better quality care to more individuals.

4. Once staffing is stable, providers can experiment with new service models and technologies.

Let’s face it: Implementing the latest new gadget probably isn’t your top priority when you’re in survival mode. Likewise, it’s going to be tough to focus on launching a new service when you’re barely able to keep the ones you have fully staffed.

But once you solve the staffing puzzle, these other pieces fall into place. You can actually think about expanding your service offerings and leveraging new technologies to provide better care. This results in meaningful improvements in outcomes for the people you serve.

The care crisis is solvable.

For providers in the throes of the care crisis, a stable, full-time workforce might seem like a pipe dream. However, we’ve proven over and over again in our work at GoodLife U that it is not only possible but entirely achievable. Visit our website to learn how we can help.

Mike Strouse is the President/CEO at GoodLife Innovations. Mike earned his Ph.D. in developmental and child psychology and holds a courtesy faculty appointment in the Department of Applied Behavioral Science at the University of Kansas. He continues to participate in research, assist with the training of graduate students, and successfully maintains this important 40-year partnership with the University.