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4 Steps to Eliminate Staffing Gap Risks in Senior Care

eliminate-staffing-gap-risks.jpgStaffing gaps are a real concern for senior care providers and can put your organization at risk—disputes over staffing levels can even lead to legal action. While senior care organizations strive to provide the best quality care to their residents, many organizations face staffing challenges. Wage pressures and a shortage in the caregiver workforce add to the problem.

It can be easy for staffing gaps to occur when you face a constant staffing shortage or problems with turnover. If you are one of the many senior care organizations who struggle with staffing, you will want to address those issues quickly. Gaps in your schedule are a threat to providing high quality care and service.

But before you spend the time and money required to hire more staff, consider first making some workforce improvements that can have a big positive impact. Tracking the following four data points can help you identify staffing gaps at your organization and provide data for your hiring decisions going forward. 

1. Open Shifts—Set requirements for each shift based on census and acuity. Also, measure staffing levels daily which will create a baseline of the staff needed to cover each shift. Staffing needs can fluctuate based on census so evaluate census daily and adjust staffing accordingly. Ask your scheduler to plan ahead by estimating staffing needs based on fluctuations in census that occur as a result of residents moving in or out. Acuity is also an important factor to look at when addressing open shifts. When resident acuity increases, the time required to care for residents will likely increase and more staff will be needed to offer quality care. When census and acuity drop, you might be able decrease staffing levels

2. Overtime & Agency Use—If your organization is constantly relying on agency staff to fill open shifts, you most likely have a gap in your schedule. Look at where agency staff are typically filling in. If you use agency workers mostly on weekends, you may want to look at hiring specifically for those shifts. You may also want to revisit your master schedule to determine if you have internal staff that are available for weekends but are not being used there. Deal with overtime similarly. If you have overtime built into your master schedule, you have staffing gaps. Understand where overtime is coming from so you can decide if you need to hire more staff, or if current employees can fill in those gaps. 

3. Call-offs—Tracking and analyzing call-offs by employee and by shift will give you visibility into important trends. For instance, you may notice that a certain employee always calls off for their Monday morning shift. This data will allow you to have a conversation to resolve the issue. Perhaps the employee’s availability changed, but they just failed to let you know. Tracking this data can give you the insight to make informed workforce decisions.

4. Staff Utilization—Something we see with OnShift clients is that staff is not always scheduled to their full availability. For example, if an employee that is available full-time (40 hours/week) is only used for 24 hours a week, unnecessary staffing gaps could be created. Track employees’ actual hours worked against their availability to make sure all full-time staff are scheduled to maximize utilization of their available hours. When last-minute shifts come up, make sure to take full advantage of the staff you already have on hand. Many employees appreciate the opportunity to pick up some extra hours.

Keeping an eye on these crucial benchmarks can help you avoid putting your organization at risk. Make sure you understand how much staff you really need based on actual census and acuity data, track your agency use and overtime, identify call-off trends, and fully utilize the staff you currently have. Understand these four points before you spend money to hire new staff. Managing and analyzing staffing data can be complex, but it will help you to utilize your staff in the best way possible, and make hiring decisions based on real data.

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