Kyle Regan

Trust can be difficult to earn in long-term care. It’s not that residents do not trust the nurses and CNAs who care for them on a daily basis. 

In fact, for the twentieth straight year, nurses are considered the most honest and ethical of all professionals, and that includes those in long-term care. Rather, the issue is trust in long-term care leaders

When seniors and their family members observe problems in the implementation of care plans, they gradually put the pieces together and begin to look at management as the culprit. This is because outsiders often perceive the organization as being most concerned with the profit margin.

Further, it is often the non-verbal cues of nurses and CNAs — who do all they can to work with limited resources — that are most telling. When they must work around measures intended to save time and expenses during a pandemic and in the midst of a staffing shortage, it can create the perception of flawed leadership. Subsequently, when trust in the organization is reduced, residents may choose to move to other facilities or back home. 

So how can we detect when there is a trust issue? And what can be done to strengthen the trust between residents and facilities? The answer to both questions lies in improving communication with nurses. 

When nurses disagree with a decision but feel they have no means by which to share their concerns with management, they may end up reporting the issue to the state anonymously. That is a good indication that there is a lack of trust between staff and management. 

To prevent things from getting to this point, leaders must not allow nurses and CNAs to become disgruntled or feel silenced. Instead, they must be present on the floor as often as possible and allow for free and open discussion in which they seriously consider staff input. 

Some leaders are aware of the advantage better communication with staff provides. For instance, in a recent interview, Bob Speelman, the vice president of Foundations Health Solutions, shared that he decided to receive training as an STNA to better understand the perspectives of his employees and act accordingly. 

“I’ve never been a big fan of the top down managerial style,” he said. “I like to give [the staff] a lot of latitude and empower them to make a decision, good or bad.” 

By acting with empathy and humility, leaders in long-term care will be able to walk through problems hand-in-hand with direct care providers and thus put everyone on the same page (or, at the very least, reduce pent-up frustration). 

This stronger trust in the organization from nurses will then, in turn, build greater trust between residents, their families and management. Hours and hours of dedication and positive attitudes on behalf of long-term care nurses and CNAs have earned them a good reputation. Further, they are not believed to be “in cahoots” with management, especially considering the pay gap. 

It is for these reasons that nurse satisfaction conveys the idea that an organization is functioning as it should. And it is only then that managers and leaders will be looked at as dedicated service providers instead of business owners.

Kyle Regan is a customer success expert at Experience Care. Previously, he was the administrator of The Waters of Johnson City. He can be reached at [email protected] 

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.