Injury prevention is crucial to employee retention

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Greg Snoddy
Greg Snoddy

Everyone in the senior living industry has heard it before: Medical advancements are leading to residents living longer now than ever before. As a result, seniors require more care to keep them well longer. Unfortunately, as more senior care workers are aging out of the workforce, especially in the case of nurses, the industry is facing workforce shortages. Long-term care facilities are faced with dwindling workforce, and a population of older seniors each year.

So why are senior care worker shortages so prevalent?

There are many things to consider when looking at the shortage cause, but frankly, providing senior care is hard work, so attracting and retaining qualified staff to fill the skills gaps can be difficult. Did you know that nurses and nursing assistants are in the top 10 occupations for back injuries, aches, and other problems? Caregiving is physically demanding, and as obesity rates continue to rise among seniors, senior care workers are at an even higher risk for injuries. With this common knowledge, senior care workers are even more aware of their own need to feel confident that their employer has their back, literally.

There's no denying it: senior care providers are at risk for physical injuries

According to the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 35,000 back and other injuries ranging in severity among nursing employees each year. Many of these injuries are severe enough that the employees have to miss work for a long period of time, some even cause permanent injuries and result in employees leaving the caregiving industry altogether. Nurses and patient aides each suffer roughly three times the rate of back and other musculoskeletal injuries (such as those to the neck and shoulder) as construction laborers – and these are just what we know from incidents that are actually reported. For a senior living facility, this issue could translate to additional intermittent staffing shortages or the permanent loss of your most trusted and high-performing employees.

 

One of the major causes for senior care worker musculoskeletal injuries is the physical stress of the job duties related to day-to-day resident handling and positioning. In some cases, caregivers may even be assisting residents that are significantly larger than them. As obesity rates rise, it's likely that a caregiver will be assigned to assist a 300+ pound resident with various tasks at some point in his or her career. In this scenario, the act simply moving the resident's leg could require the caregiver to lift around 60 pounds. Long shifts paired with constant movement and repetitive heavy lifting, even for just a short time, could wreak havoc on one's back.

Provide the tools needed to prevent injuries

Showing that you care about your employee's well being and empowering them to work efficiently and safely is crucial in a senior care facility's efforts to attract and retain talent. There are many ways to ensure employee safety and reduce injury risk including maintaining safety protocols and ensuring proper employee training.  However, you can also implement specific caregiving tools as well.

Something as simple as adopting a patient positioning program can limit the loss of valuable high-performing caregivers due to injury (or risk of injury) and minimize the expense related to replacing those lost caregivers. To keep you senior care staff safe from injuries associated with resident handling and positioning, use a reliable patient positioner specifically designed to make the job easier on the back while remaining safe and comfortable for the resident. 

A positioner already placed under the resident makes it easier for caregivers to safely and easily perform patient repositioning tasks without the increased risk of injury. Be sure to choose a product with a large surface area to accommodate the heaviest portion of a resident's body and allow for a smoother transition by the caregiving staff while boosting or lifting residents experiencing limited mobility.

A high-quality patient positioning system is a small investment that could go a long way toward establishing a reputation as a senior living facility that takes employee well being into consideration while still providing top-quality care. This kind of brand message and promise is attractive to new senior care workers entering the workforce and may help address staffing shortage issues.

In conclusion, using the right tools to create safer working conditions may make it easier for you to attract quality employees and keep them longer. Reliable caregiving tools make it easier for employees in your facility to provide top-quality care without the fear of being injured. Your staff and residents alike will appreciate knowing that the well being of everyone in your facility is important to you.

Greg Snoddy is the Vice President of Healthcare Sales-Senior Living for Encompass Group. He can be reached at greg.snoddy@encompassgroup.net

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