Skip to main content

The Staffing Crisis: Send a True Message & Do Simple Things

By Cindy Gensamer, Vice President, Absolute Rehabilitation


Staffing problems are top of mind in every circle of post-acute care leadership. Most leaders describe it as a “crisis” not just a problem. While it is true, there seems to be help-wanted signs in every employment sector competing for employees, post-acute care offers much more than other competing sectors.


Every day, direct care personnel working in skilled nursing facilities can end their shift feeling like they saved lives. It is very true, these employees feed people that aren’t able to eat independently. They hydrate, reposition, medicate, assist in every imaginable manner, and, by and large, offer kindness and security to a vulnerable population. The nobility of their daily tasks cannot be overstated.


Employers such as big box retailers, culinary establishments, and those that ship items to the home simply cannot compete with the feeling of accomplishment felt by serving others. Serving others in a manner that saves their life. There is an ancient book of wisdom that states, “there is more happiness in giving than in receiving.” This does seem to be how humans are “wired.” Letting direct care personnel know the impact they make on their patients every day is a differentiator.


Imagine an Administrator standing by the time clock at the end of the shift and shaking nurse aides’ hands, thanking them for saving lives today. The spring in their step would be noticeable, try it! Help direct care employees understand the big picture, they are serving the most vulnerable population of people. There is a great deal of satisfaction that can be had by pondering over what they did during their shift and how it made a difference. It is not a cliché, they are actually saving and enriching lives.


Beyond appreciating the fact that direct care personnel save and enrich lives, other simple things matter as leaders attempt to retain employees being inundated with other opportunities. Simple things like knowing their name, knowing their family members by name, giving them eye contact and offering thanks with sincerity. The ROI on meeting with new employees on their first day and getting them excited to save lives and end each shift with a great deal of satisfaction cannot be quantified.


In addition to knowing your staff and getting them excited to save and enrich lives, other simple things matter. Effective leaders will know their circumstances, is transportation needed? What shift and schedule works best for their family? Are they constantly barraged with text messages begging them to pick up other shifts? Is guilt placed on the employee that simply can’t work over or extra shifts? Have you filled the face to face opportunities to interact with your staff that was eliminated by direct deposit and online education? Is your staff hungry? I have heard of facilities improving retention simply by providing peanut butter and bread in the lunch room that employees could eat at no cost.


Leaders that spend time caring about those performing direct care to their patients will have much more success than those that spend hours looking at “big data.” Spreading the message that other employers simply cannot compete with the level of job satisfaction in helping others and offering other simple solutions will help to abate the crisis. Remember, these employees earn much more than a paycheck for the services they deliver, remind them of that fact.