Close up image of a caretaker helping older woman walk

When interviewing a prospective long-term care employee, you’re right to be extremely skeptical. In this age of blatant resume deception and social media artifice, reality can be many layers deep. So you lean forward, squint your eyes, tilt your head, purse your lips, furrow your brow, and try to peer deep into the applicant’s murky soul for the answer that matters most: “Who are you really?”

Unless it’s a nurse. Then your only question will probably be, “When can you start?”

In the eternal quest for the perfect tool to make recruitment a risk-free, stress-free activity, I wonder if we’ve considered all the possible alternatives. For instance, a recent study of DNA from a sample of Ludwig van Beethoven’s hair just yielded a treasure-trove of hidden insights. Why couldn’t that work in long-term care? 

The backstory is that as the composer lay on his deathbed in 1827, grieving family and admirers asked to snip locks of his hair to remember him by. Within three days after his death, not a strand was left on his head. (That’s actually a scene I’d love for my own friends to recreate just before I expire, but from the looks of my barren scalp, they’ve already been snipping. Possibly for years.)  

The DNA study refuted the popular belief that Beethoven died of lead poisoning, and noted a genetic marker for liver disease, which could have been the real culprit. On more scandalous topics, an out-of-wedlock child was discovered somewhere in the generations before his birth, and a Belgian family who shared his last name and had long proclaimed themselves to be related were determined not to be. 

Which raises the question: What does it feel like to wake up one morning and discover you’re not actually related to Beethoven? Not great, I imagine. 

So, why couldn’t this technology be leveraged and improved for our staffing crisis? I realize some major advances will be necessary in order to access the personal secrets candidates are trying to hide right now, rather than waiting for 200 years after their death. But now that rapid COVID tests have been developed, it seems like a multi-functional Truth in Hair tool couldn’t be far behind. 

Finally, applicant interviews would no longer be such a guessing game. You wouldn’t need to be a mind-reader and body-language expert. You could leave the polygraph in the drawer. “I know who you say you are, but who are you really going to be while you’re working here?” you’d ask with a smile as you slowly approached with the scissors, points down. “Do you have the caring gene? The selflessness gene? The never call-in when you’re not really sick gene? The deliver-your-best-in-every-situation gene? That’s what we’re going to find out. Now close your eyes. It won’t hurt a bit.” 

This would also be a wonderful technology with which to analyze the best and brightest of long-term care, people like those being honored with McKnight’s Women of Distinction awards. The mystery of what drives the profession’s finest would be unlocked, and we could get right to work on replicating them. Often when I talk to co-workers and leaders about people like this, they say, “I just wish I could clone her.” Well, Truth in Hair sampling could be the first step. 

Perhaps we should even launch the program this very year, at the May awards presentation in Chicago. As the winners walk across the stage to a deafening tumult of applause, a blue-gloved hair-collection professional would grab a quick snip from each. The results would be available on the big screen by the end of the night, and the cloning process would begin immediately backstage, with full-scale deliveries nationwide within a week.  

Packed upright in dry ice and carefully wheeled in from FedEx delivery trucks, your new contingent of perfectly formed and motivated staff will emerge from their resting places as genetically exact copies of the best in this profession. 

Staffing crisis solved. Biden plan irrelevant. Profession saved. Definitely time for an “Ode to Joy.”

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a two-time national Silver Medalist and three-time regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program, as well as an Award of Excellence honoree in the APEX Awards. He’s been amusing, inspiring, informing and sometimes befuddling long-term care readers worldwide since the end of a previous century. He is a writer and video producer for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.