John O’Connor

When staffing challenges are discussed, they tend to focus on frontline employees and middle managers. But as perhaps never before, long-term care is being forced to deal with losses at the very top.

To cite but a few recent developments:

  • San Diego-based St. Paul’s Senior Services President and CEO Cheryl Wilson retired in February.
  • Judith Trumbo retired March 31 as president and CEO of the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, Harrisonburg, VA.
  • Among those planning to retire in the coming months are Neptune, N.J.-based United Methodist Communities’ CEO Lawrence D. Carlson, Los Angeles-based Front Porch Communities’ CEO, John Woodward, Atlanta-based Jewish HomeLife’s president CEO Harley Tabak, and Dillsburg, PA-based Presbyterian Senior Living President and CEO James Bernardo.

Sadly, the list goes on.

That is a lot of wisdom and experience leaving the buildings. As if retirements aren’t fueling a bad enough staffing brain drain, another catalyst may make things even worse. I’m referring, of course, to the COVID-19 pandemic. Or to be more precise, its aftermath.

Many CEOs chose to stick around while the pandemic was at full tilt. But as it fades, the Great Resignation seems to be gaining a toehold at the top, according to Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

New data from the outplacement services firm shows that the number of CEO departures from public companies rose by 56% in the first quarter, compared to a year earlier.

“A high rate of Americans are quitting their jobs each month, and CEOs are no exception,” said Andrew Challenger, a spokesman for the firm.

While high-level executives are often viewed as a different breed of cat from other staffing titles, it turns out they too can be susceptible to the kinds of stresses that are causing many of their underlings to leave. These include mounting job frustrations, burnout, heightened anxiety — and the occasional need to take stock.

It’s certainly understandable that CEOs, too, might want to reconsider their current paths and the road ahead. Especially given how challenging the operating environment for long-term care facilities has become.

But, boy, could the timing possibly be any worse?

At a moment when the need for leadership has perhaps never been greater, all too many industry leaders may soon be gone.

John O’Connor is editorial director for McKnight’s.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News columns are not necessarily those of McKnight’s.