We talk a lot about the direct-care workforce. We know they are critical to resident care, yet extremely difficult to attract and retain. We also know that we need to recruit 1.3 million more of them to care for the growing number of people entering care settings.
But one aspect of the workforce that I think we need to learn more about is the characteristics of the individuals that make up this group - their challenges, their motivations and who they are as people. PHI addresses this discrepancy in their new report, It’s Time To Care: A Detailed Profile of America’s Direct-Care Workforce.
As the report indicates, the direct-care workforce is composed mostly of low-income women and people of color, who have barriers to education and often hold multiple jobs. “These workers require more technical, interpersonal, and linguistic and cultural competencies than ever before,” the report states.
And even though their roles and responsibilities are becoming more demanding, wages remain “notoriously low,” leading to extremely high poverty rates within the direct-care workforce.
A survey recently conducted by OnShift found that the vast majority of providers do in fact understand many of the challenges caregivers face. Many are working multiple jobs, juggling family responsibilities and lack reliable childcare. And nearly 60% of respondents reported a lack of financial savings as a top personal challenge facing their employees.
Respondents also recognized the negative impact these challenges can have on their business, including more frequent call-offs and absenteeism, as well as lower motivation and satisfaction.
To gain even deeper insight into this population, PHI profiled a few caregivers in the report – highlighting their passion for providing care, why they chose this line of work, their challenges and what they need to be successful.
Ricardo Araujo says his job is more than just a paycheck every week. “It is work, but I get to do something I enjoy.” He does acknowledge the challenging aspects of his job, but exercises empathy and patience.
“Sometimes my clients can be grumpy, but I’m pretty sure I would act the same way if I had to stay in bed and needed help moving,” he explains. “I just remember to do my job and to always be patient and understanding.”
Similarly, Dessaline Watkins, a direct support professional (DSP) and also mother of eight, finds meaning in her line of work, even when things get stressful. “I am the type of person who is always trying to figure out better ways to do my job and to solve problems. I often leave work thinking, ‘How can I reach my residents in a better way?’ and that can be hard to turn off when I get home.”
Watkins recognizes her relationship with her residents is multifaceted. “I am their staff and my job is to support them, but I am also a mentor, a friend, and I provide guidance,” she explains.
Culix Wibonele held jobs in several fields before settling into her career in senior care. “I’m a hands-on person and I wanted something where I would be engaging people and helping them. So I decided
to become a CNA. I feel like this is my calling.”
Still, she acknowledges her dismay of the low wage-nature of the industry, despite the critical role caregivers play in residents’ lives. “We are the eyes and ears for these members, and we know what is going on with them 24/7 more than anybody else. This job can be stressful, and when you are not earning enough money to make ends meet, many people leave to find better pay.”
Supporting & Stabilizing The Direct-Care Workforce
This is a group that is clearly struggling and in need of more support. PHI mentions a couple financial policies that could boost hourly wages for caregivers in the future. However, to combat wage pressures in the meantime, providers should implement programs and policies that improve quality of life for their direct-care workers. Training and development opportunities, work-life balance and financial assistance are a few of the key tactics that may help.
In fact, our survey found that 50% of providers offer or plan to offer employee tuition assistance to promote career growth, as well as flexible scheduling to help employees find better work-life balance. Additionally, a large number of providers offer or plan to offer meal and consumer discounts and access to earned wages before payday to ease the financial burden many of their staff members face.
However, the top perk senior care organizations are focused on implementing is an employee rewards and recognition program to help ensure their employees feel recognized and rewarded for their contributions at work.
Looking ahead, providers must also focus on recruiting more workers – both to fill current openings and create a pipeline for the future. The perks mentioned above can help organizations position themselves as a desirable place to work, but other sourcing strategies like partnerships with local schools, home-grown certification programs, etc. will also be key in our efforts.
Additionally, providing a positive candidate experience can help providers stand out from the competition and hire top talent. OnShift Employ, our new talent acquisition software, does just that, helping providers to source, recruit, screen, hire and onboard candidates with greater speed and efficiency, while also providing an enhanced candidate experience.
I want to wrap up by acknowledging the positive nature of the caregivers profiled in the report. Even though their jobs can be challenging and demanding at times, their positivity and passion affirms my optimism about the future of this workforce. We are attracting the right kind of people, now we just need to focus on helping them live better lives.