Staff retention is focus of nursing home panel

Very high staff turnover in Rhode Island’s nursing homes is bad for the patients and bad for the bottom line as well, agreed the members of the Dialogue on Health Care Quality Improvement, when they convened Dec. 7 at the Rhode Island Foundation.

But the six-person panel, sponsored by Quality Partners of Rhode Island and Providence Business News, also agreed that the nursing home industry has recognized the problem and is working to correct it.

The annual turnover rate is staggering – 58.9 percent for nurses and 82.7 percent for certified nursing assistants, according to Gail Patry, director of long-term care for Quality Partners, a health care consulting group that has been involved in nursing home quality issues for several years.

Among the results: temporary staff is used to fill in the gaps, assignments are dropped, workers are called on to work extended overtime and staff morale has plummeted. Not surprisingly, patient care is affected, as is the financial health of the nursing homes.

- Advertisement -

Lonnie Bisbano, administrator of Orchard View Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in East Providence, did some back-of-the-envelope calculations showing that an average nursing home could be spending upwards of $250,000 to hire and train new staff every year.

Patry noted that simple things like consistent staff assignments and making the cafeteria an inviting place to eat have a real effect on morale.

Through staff surveys and other research, Quality Partners has found that working conditions have a huge impact on staff retention. Further discussion revealed that, while low pay does affect retention, workplace issues are more important determinants.

Hugh Hall, administrator for West View Health Care Center in West Warwick, said that empowering employees to resolve issues on the spot had helped improve job satisfaction at his facility, as well as resident care.

Some suggested that the right attitude would lead to improved working conditions and better care. Rick Gamache, administrator of Elmhurst Extended Care Facility in Providence, said his facility is replacing a personnel policy characterized by “fair, equitable, consistent” treatment to one that is based on “love, respect and compassion.”

Lt. Gov.-elect Elizabeth Roberts, one of 45 audience members, asked if such ideas were being shared with others in the industry, and whether they were bearing fruit. Patry said that among the 33 nursing homes working with Quality Partners to improve working conditions, the average reported turnover rate has dropped from more than 60 percent to less than 40 percent – and that without two outliers, the rate would be about 20 percent.

No posts to display