Long-term care struggling to hold onto employees, expert explains

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A year after healthcare reform became law, finding and keeping good industry employees continues to be a massive challenge, especially in long-term care, an expert in healthcare recruitment and retention said Wednesday.

“Healthcare reform has made a big difference in how we recruit and retain. There will be more pressure on retention than there ever has before, especially in long-term care,” said Greta Sherman, senior vice president at TMP Worldwide, during an American Hospital Association webcast.

For example, average long-term care nursing assistants and nurses annual turnover rates are at 71% and 49%, respectively, according to LeadingAge. Consumers now can view recruitment and retention statistics, as the Affordable Care Act demanded that RN-to-patient ratio, staffing turnover and the number of CNAs become accessible. The data is available on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid's Nursing Home Compare website.

Another goal of healthcare reform was to improve the level of care for seniors, Sherman noted, which meant employee drug screening has become increasingly mandatory. A number of LTC employees have flunked the drug tests, she pointed out. “It was like rats coming out of the alley,” Sherman said, adding that employers are scrambling to find drug-free employees who can fill slots.

Another area in high demand for LTC recruiters: physical therapists, who are increasingly needed as baby boomers have joints replaced and need follow-up therapy.  “I have a client who has 200 openings for PTs,” Sherman said.

In the near future, long-term care recruitment may have to become more centralized, she says. Shared savings programs or accountable care organization will demand a more organized approach.

“Without good hiring and streamlined hiring ... the ACOS that you are building right now won't be sharing in the savings,” she says. “The biggest thing that worries me about long-term care is that the recruitment function is splattered. They are leaving it up to the executive director or business manager at a particular facility. They don't have that critical mass to do a nice website or recruit aggressively on LinkedIn or on Facebook. It's very, very local.”