Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline caretakers have been overworked, pushed to their limit, and increased their vulnerability to getting sick. Employee burnout has reached a record high, with droves of quality staff members leaving their caretaking positions. The senior care industry has felt the brunt of this crisis, specifically in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), long term care (LTC) centers, and nursing homes.
The State of Senior Care in 2022
The shortage of caretakers continues, even as the pandemic’s severity decreases. Studies like the State of Long Term Care Industry report reveal alarming statistics about assisted living and nursing homes. Of 1,183 facilities surveyed, 99 percent have faced a recent staffing shortage. The primary cause of these shortages is burnout due to disorganization and lack of support.
The lack of frontline workers in elder care has worse consequences than high turnover at a particular organization. Overworked caretakers, or lack of options to find them, often hastens an elderly patient’s decline when they do not get the proper physical or mental attention. Inability to get proper care can be devastating for seniors and their families.
As organizations slowly begin to rebuild their staff, now is the time not just to recover but also to build a more stable future. Retaining workers is crucial as the aging population continues to increase.
What is the best way to strategize employee retention for senior care? Technology.
Incorporating new technical skills into day-to-day operations can feel intimidating and overwhelming for busy nursing staff, but the benefits outweigh the struggles. With the help of electronics, frontline workers can have more control over their time. Technology helps nurses have more manageable schedules and more efficient communication with their patients and supervisors. As a result, they are free to give more direct human interaction to those they serve, keeping the care level consistent and high quality.
Technology can also be a means of caretaker recruitment. Branding is more crucial now than ever in attracting younger adults to pursue a career in the senior care industry. The baby boomer population will soon be entering the elder support system, making the industry poised for immense growth with ample job opportunities.
The upcoming increase of senior patients necessitates better recruitment and nurturing of staff. Social media, e-newsletter communications, and other forms of internet marketing can make frontline working more attractive to the next generation.
Five Technologies to Attract and Retain Frontline Workers
Below are five technological innovations that healthcare executives should consider using in their facilities to provide greater support for their staff while encouraging higher rates of retention.
1. Smart Speakers
A patient in a skilled nursing facility or long-term care center may tell smart speakers to call a nurse for assistance getting to the restroom or if they need help moving around. They can also use it to turn on a television, increasing their feeling of self-sufficiency. With smart speakers, daily tasks get easier for seniors. In turn, this frees up the daily tasks of your staff. When the patient is more independent, healthcare workers are free to see more people and have more meaningful interactions with them. Whenever we can make a frontline worker’s job easier, it helps them feel valued and allows them to reserve their energy for more critical tasks.
2. Alarms and Sensors
Safety monitoring systems allow SNF and LTC residents to activate an alarm using their voices. The systems can also record vitals, detect falls, and send reminders to take medication. The information it gathers can generate important health alerts, draft treatment plans, and tell care teams of potential incidents before they occur. These devices reduce stress for staff, which helps to make their job easier.
3. Artificial Intelligence
In many settings, robots can take over the job of real people, which is powerful in facilities experiencing staffing shortages. Artificial intelligence can take the form of robotic assistants that help seniors be more independent, even when they’re living at a LTC center. They also help support nurses by taking care of mundane tasks like cleaning or more critical needs like providing emotional connection when staff is busy.
4. Touchless Devices
Though senior care can have a reputation for lagging with technology use, touchless abilities put it towards the front. Machines like touchless clocks prevent the spread of many viruses, allowing frontline workers to accomplish tasks faster and with less physical risk to their health while also preventing residents from getting sick and spreading diseases around the facility.
5. Training Software
Patient care technology is worthwhile when it functions well, but training employees to use it brings an unfamiliar set of challenges. Many facilities are overwhelmed by the time, money, and brain power it takes to understand and incorporate complicated skills. Several companies have created software to make the learning process user-friendly for frontline workers, giving them the confidence to level up their technical skills on the job. Healthcare workers who understand and appreciate technical expertise can use it to make their jobs more time-efficient, safe, and with less burnout.
Technology gives healthcare workers a precious commodity: time. When nursing staff can better control their schedules, stress levels go down, as do employee turnover rates. Electronic tools take more mundane work off the shoulders of employees, freeing them up to interact more directly with their patients.
Safety is a concern for employees and seniors while an organization is understaffed. Technology helps keep more accurate records and facilitates quicker communication. It can also prevent the spread of illness when touchless elements are in use. Good equipment can help retain the current workforce by prioritizing their comfort level.
Technology’s power promotes a positive and healthy environment for frontline workers, which reduces burnout. Happier employees benefit everyone—patients, their families, and the leadership at each organization. Nurturing frontline care providers is key to sustaining individual organizations and strengthening the industry, especially while it grows in the coming years. Technology has positive outcomes for the entire senior care industry because of the direct benefit to employees who sustain it.
Bent Philipson is the founder of Philosophy Care, a consulting firm providing a range of services to skilled nursing facilities throughout New York and New Jersey.