Kevin Maufer

Skilled nursing facilities were among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic by nurse staffing shortages, impacting patient care and staff satisfaction. 

As skilled nursing facilities work to hire more nurses in the wake of COVID-19-related staffing shortages, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ recent changes to its Five-Star Quality Rating System are putting additional pressure on HR and nursing leaders. The updated guidelines now include measures for staff turnover (including RNs, licensed practical nurses, nurse aids and administration) and weekend staffing levels.

Reducing the time to hire will greatly improve staffing star ratings. Thankfully, hiring processes are evolving to create new ways to bring in staff faster. Innovative new technologies and meeting nurse applicants where they are during the application process will allow SNFs to reduce hiring costs, improve retention, optimize their ratings and contribute to the financial viability of their facilities.

How to speed up hiring  

1.       Re-tool the hiring process

Employers are missing out on top candidates because they do not act efficiently. Leveraging effective communication tools, technology and employer responsiveness to streamline the application process will get nurses in the door faster and raise placement rates. 

According to an analysis of 3.5 million job applications filled out by 800,000 applicants on our healthcare marketplace, reducing the submission to interview time from over ten days to less than five increased offers by 30%. Employers can improve time-to-hire by setting up internal standards for response time to candidates at each stage of the hiring process. 

Mobile communication and application platforms allow for easy access to the traditionally time-consuming process of applying for jobs. The use of chat or text to communicate with candidates speeds up response time on the applicant side and improves the overall experience.

 Discussion questions: Are you cross-training the HR team? Do you have existing programs for alumni and boomerang employees who may be interested in coming back?  Are you using SMS or email to better connect with candidates? Do you have quantitative benchmarks for calling candidates back? 

2. Focus on job quality      

While compensation is often the top factor for clinicians, our proprietary data has shown that work environment, benefits, workload, leadership and quantity of support staff all factor into staff’s decision to accept or keep a job. 

When it comes to re-recruiting the workforce, we have found medical workers to be willing to trade the salaries of travel jobs for the stability, community and career development that come with a strong employer.  Over the last two years, clinicians who are traveling have missed the team dynamics and traditional career progression that comes with a staff role. 

Discussion Questions: Do you take the time to review your career progression for existing employees? Are you providing ways to meet today’s medical workers’ desire for self-directed career trajectories and the ability to sculpt a career to meet their lives? 

3.       Improve transparency

Candidates are looking for job and application transparency from the start of the application process. Clear insight into compensation structure, benefit offerings and the training process provides candidates with a realistic job preview, reducing wasted time and effort for both applicants and recruiters on incompatible job matches. 

Our data shows that, even in facilities offering pay below the market rate, senior care organizations can increase engaged candidates by 15-30% by improving transparency around pay, benefits and schedule flexibility.

Discussion Questions: Are you providing candidates with clear updates on where they are in the hiring process?  

4.       Write clear job descriptions

Candidates are more interested in daily tasks and responsibilities than general overviews of the company. Specifics on what the job will entail can be used to differentiate one position from the rest, a task that is often difficult given the limitations on senior care specialties. 

Working in a SNF is challenging, and nurses, particularly acute care nurses considering the transition to senior care, need to be given a reason to make the jump. Highlighting flexible scheduling options, patient populations being cared for and the impact of preventive community care create that draw.

To get the best candidate, job descriptions should include:

  • Specific title (as opposed to a generic title like “senior care provider”)
  • A clear description of caregiver responsibilities
  • State-required educational and experience qualifications
  • Terminology specific to senior care 

Discussion Questions: Are there things you can do today to make job descriptions more clear or specific to the role or type of population your long-term care facility serves? 

5.       Create flexibility both before and after hire

Oftentimes, applicants are working in another position during the job search, limiting their availability. Offering interview flexibility and communication via text or email opens up the recruiting pool to candidates unavailable during traditional interview times and speeds up the application process. 

Nurse burnout has always been a problem, but it has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Mental health considerations and flexible scheduling have become more of a priority for candidates as they consider roles. Nuanced staffing options, such as weekend-only staffing and variation in shift lengths, are attractive to job seekers and help address heightened security from CMS regarding weekend staffing levels.  

Discussion Questions: How can you train your HR team to improve the recruitment process with efficiency? Increased accessibility and transparency, reduced employer response time, and improved communication can drastically enhance hiring success. Can you change the types of shifts you offer to attract a greater diversity of hires?  

Wrap up

CMS is focused on staffing for a reason. Staffing shortages have only gotten worse over the past few years, with pandemic burnout building on an already pressing issue. The implementation of smart recruiting practices can help SNFs achieve appropriate staffing levels and, in turn, improve patient outcomes, employee satisfaction and overall quality of care. 

Kevin has built his career on growing and scaling world class Customer Success groups for early-stage SaaS businesses, while ensuring higher utilization, satisfaction, and retention. As Vice President of Customer Success at Vivian Health, he has been instrumental in developing strong partnerships with clients, implementing robust structures and processes, developing and mentoring CS teams, and working cross functionally to deliver value for partners and customers.

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.