Assisted living facilities face several challenges in 2023. Challenges like workforce shortages and a growing aging population make it difficult for facilities to hire and retain the staff they need to provide residents with the best care possible. Solving these and other workforce challenges is a high priority for facilities that want to maintain their competitive edge and support their staff.
Though the road ahead looks uncertain, assisted living facilities have several tools at their disposal for addressing workforce challenges. Learn more about common assisted living workforce challenges and how your facility can mitigate them strategically to grow in 2023.
Why Assisted Living Facilities Face Challenges
Like many other types of healthcare facilities, assisted living facilities will face numerous challenges in the coming years. The healthcare industry is under immense financial and operational strain. Challenges related to healthcare worker recruitment, retention, and burnout make it challenging for assisted living facilities to maintain full staffing.
At the same time that these facilities are struggling to find enough nurses and aides, the need for the care they provide is skyrocketing. The baby boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964, now makes up 21.16% of the population. While millennials make up slightly more of the population, baby boomers contribute to a continually aging America that requires additional health care.
The aging of America is a pressing issue for the healthcare industry and assisted living facilities in particular. The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) estimates that the United States will need approximately 54,000 new senior housing units per year between 2020 and 2025, 95,000 between 2025 and 2030, and 105,000 from 2030 to 2040. This need is far higher than what is currently available in the industry.
As assisted living facilities consider the challenges they face, they need to find and implement strategies for growth in 2023.
5 Assisted Living Workforce Challenges
Leaders at assisted living facilities will face obstacles in managing their facilities as workforces and technology change. Here are five common problems in assisted living facilities going into 2023:
1. Continued Staffing Shortages
Caregivers are vital to the successful operation of any assisted living facility, helping residents perform everyday activities and providing medical care as needed. Yet these facilities are in the thick of a workforce crisis. The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) found in a survey that 81% of assisted living facilities have a staffing shortage at their facility. Although the number of staff in nursing and residential care facilities has been increasing since January 2022, it is far below January 2020 levels.
The staffing shortage in the healthcare industry is nothing new. However, the situation is rapidly declining. Between January and June of 2022, 52% of assisted living providers felt their staffing situation worsened. To cover these gaps, 98% of these facilities have asked staff to cover extra shifts or work overtime. Half have hired temporary agency staff to fill the need.
Consider the job outlook for registered nurses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 203,000 job openings for registered nurses will open each year between 2021 and 2031. While most nurses work in hospitals, the shortage also impacts assisted living facilities. These facilities need improved recruitment and retention strategies to stem the impacts of the shortage.
2. High Turnover
When an assisted living facility hires more staff, the next challenge is keeping them. High turnover rates at assisted living facilities impact the quality of care provided to residents and make it difficult for facilities to maintain adequate staffing levels.
The turnover problem is a significant one. A study published in Health Affairs in 2021 found a median nursing turnover rate of 94% at senior living facilities. This issue could be the result of several factors. When facilities already have poor staffing levels, staff may feel inadequately supported to perform their jobs. Poor engagement, difficulty scheduling, and a lack of support for staff could contribute to the desire to find new employment.
3. Scheduling Issues
Managing any workforce is challenging, but managing staff at a healthcare facility brings unique difficulties. Scheduling can be a significant challenge for managers and can become complicated quickly. Many staff members might work part-time or have irregular schedules. When someone calls out due to illness, replacements must be found quickly. Effectively overseeing the schedules of nurses, agency nurses, CNAs, dining staff, housekeeping staff, and front desk staff demands quick insight into availability.
The staff at your assisted living facility also need to feel supported in their work. Managers should listen to staff, work on solutions to challenges, and invest in continued professional development for their team. Failing to provide support for staff as they work in your facility may lead to higher turnover and difficulty in recruitment.
4. Low Staff Engagement
Staff engagement is a measure of how your staff is committed to and satisfied with their jobs. A high level of engagement among your staff leads to several benefits for staff, residents, and your company. When a workforce is engaged, they feel inspired and motivated to perform their work well. Staff members that feel like they are part of a team working toward a common goal may be more likely to help one another overcome challenges.
Unfortunately, staffing shortages and turnover contribute to a low level of engagement. When they see their coworkers dissatisfied with their jobs and looking for other positions, nurses can begin to adopt the same feelings. A lack of support through struggles, a poor sense of workplace culture, and a lack of professional development opportunities can also make staff at assisted living facilities feel disengaged with their work.
5. Operational Inefficiencies
Assisted living facilities may also face difficulty maintaining operational efficiency. Efficiently managing a facility's staff and resources is critical for success. Yet as they look for solutions to a dwindling and disengaged workforce, assisted living facilities could experience challenges overseeing their assets in a way that maximizes their potential and lowers costs.
High operational costs are a significant problem among assisted living facilities. Respondents to a June 2022 survey reported that their operational costs had gone up by an average of 40% from the previous year. These costs come from various sources.
Overtime is a significant drain on a facility's finances and staff. Finding ways to avoid overtime, even while operating under reduced staffing, is critical for maintaining efficiency. Another cost is fees for agency staff. These nurses may sometimes be necessary to bridge the workforce gap when turnover is high, but addressing the causes of turnover can reduce the need for agency staff and help facilities take control of their agency spending.
How to Solve Workforce Challenges in Healthcare
Although assisted living facilities may grapple with several challenges in 2023, there are ways your facility can solve them. When you deploy strategic measures to attract and retain staff while increasing efficiency, your facility can make strides toward engaging staff and making them feel supported and valued.
1. Find the Right Staff
When the staffing shortage in assisted living facilities is so pronounced, getting new staff in the door may feel like the highest priority. However, it's just as essential to make the right hires. Hiring qualified and caring people who fit into their roles will help your facility create a resilient team, provide residents with the care they need, and maintain its reputation.
The following approaches can help you find the staff you need:
- Expand your recruitment methods: It's vital not to rely on one hiring platform for all your recruits. Spread job openings across multiple networks to get a wider variety of applicants. Another beneficial strategy is to implement a referral program. Your existing staff knows what your facility needs to operate efficiently and can be excellent resources for new staff.
- Hire recent graduates: Employing new nursing graduates in assisted living facilities can be highly valuable. These nurses may be more engaged with greater schedule flexibility. It may also be more affordable to hire recent graduates than seasoned nurses. Consider partnering with a local college to attract their new graduates and build interest in your facility.
2. Invest in Boosting Staff Satisfaction
Once your facility hires new staff, put just as much effort into retention as acquisition. With employee turnover so high, new hires need compelling reasons to stay at your facility. A sign-on bonus is one strategy that should be combined with others. Increasing pay for a short time will not improve retention over the long run. Instead, invest in improving staff satisfaction at your facility.
Here's how to improve staff satisfaction in senior living facilities:
- Increase communication: Improving communication between management and staff is a critical strategy for reducing caregiver burnout. Your staff needs to feel like they are supported and have access to resources when they need help. Communicate judgment-free avenues for staff to communicate their challenges and needs to managers.
- Provide thoughtful benefits: Benefits are important to any staff member and can help increase their commitment to your facility. Consider providing perks like health insurance, tuition reimbursement, stipends, and the autonomy to choose shifts.
- Increase pay: According to data from the BLS, pay for nursing and residential care facilities has been steadily climbing for years. However, pay in the senior housing industry is the lowest of any industry within healthcare. Staff may be more willing to leave if they see they can receive similar or better pay for work in a more satisfactory environment. Increasing pay along with other incentives can help retain workers long-term.
3. Focus on Strengthening Work Culture
Another way to increase staff satisfaction is to improve and strengthen your facility's work culture. People enjoy feeling that they are part of a group working toward a common goal. By creating a stronger sense of work culture at your facility, you unite your staff around shared values and a common identity.
Consider these tips for how to improve work culture in assisted living facilities:
- Celebrate accomplishments: Recognizing and celebrating your staff for a job well done is a great way to make them feel valued. Provide positive professional feedback, employee of the month prizes, and shout-outs for achieving milestones.
- Organize staff events to encourage engagement: Another excellent way to improve staff retention in healthcare is to increase engagement and strengthen work culture through team-wide events. Free lunches, team-building social events, and volunteer opportunities can make your staff feel connected as a team.
- Provide development opportunities: Professional development opportunities are an important part of a better staff engagement strategy. Use job-specific training, performance evaluations, and mentorship to help staff pursue their dream career.
4. Improve Workforce Management With Software
As a tool for improving workforce management and increasing staff engagement, technology is a critical resource. Keeping up with technological developments can help facilities optimize scheduling, improve staff experience, and reduce turnover.
Using the right technology can also make your facility more competitive by automating scheduling and reducing the administrative burden on your staff. Smartlinx schedule-optimizing software gives nurses autonomy to view and claim open shifts. Your staff can manage their schedules with ease and focus on delivering better quality care to residents. The tool also allows you to generate smart schedules that change as your needs do, making it easier to fill open shifts.
How Smartlinx Can Help
When your assisted living facility wants to manage staff more easily and improve their satisfaction at your facility, workforce management software from Smartlinx can help. Smartlinx software provides an intuitive platform for assisted living facilities with a range of valuable benefits, such as:
- Seamless scheduling: With Smartlinx, you can automatically generate schedules and receive real-time updates when needed. Manage payroll and attendance, and schedule daily tasks from a single, enterprise-wide platform to keep your entire team on the same page.
- Improved staff engagement: Smartlinx strengthens staff engagement by empowering staff to access shift and HR data from an easy-to-use interface they can access from their mobile devices. Your staff can take control of time-off requests and inquire about payroll. They can also view, swap, and pick up shifts from the platform.
- Compliance: Ensure your facility complies with CMS requirements using Smartlinx. The software automatically generates reports based on your state and federal requirements so you can save time and labor and minimize risk.
Request a Demo of Smartlinx
Overcoming workforce and operational challenges to your assisted living facility won't happen overnight. You'll need to take strategic measures for recruiting, retaining, and engaging a workforce. Implementing the right tools will make the task easier. Move your facility forward by partnering with Smartlinx.
At Smartlinx, we deliver unified, customizable software to meet your facility's needs and comply with industry-specific requirements. With our solutions, you can improve workforce efficiency and ensure your residents receive the care they require. Smartlinx is designed to reduce stress on your staff, improve engagement, and reduce turnover. To learn how one platform can help your facility address its workforce management needs, request a demo today.