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Viva Las Long-Term Care: A 2017 AHCA/NCAL Convention & Expo Recap

employee engagement in long term care and senior livingA number of us from OnShift had the pleasure of attending this year’s AHCA/NCAL Convention & Expo in Las Vegas. There was record attendance, with thousands of long-term care and senior living providers and exhibitors descending upon the city to share best practices, catch up with colleagues and hear from experts in the industry.

AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson set the tone for the event right from the start by holding a moment of silence for the victims of the tragic event that befell the city two weeks prior. He said that we couldn’t let the actions of a “mad man” detract from the reason that we were there - to learn, share and grow together. And that we did, over the course of the next few days.

This was a special event for me, as I had recently been re-elected to the AHCA board as the Associate Business Member President for another two-year term.

Employee Engagement Is Still A Hot Topic

OnShift was thrilled to sponsor the NCAL (National Center for Assisted Living) Day and myself and my colleagues had a blast at our booth.

We handed out green OnShift glasses to those that stopped by and later gave out prizes to those we saw wearing them during the conference. The reason for the sunglasses? At OnShift, we are helping providers "make their workforce shine" with our suite of products for hiring, scheduling and employee engagement. It was a BIG hit!

Events like this are the perfect platform to initiate conversations about creating a strong and engaged workforce. We had several discussions with attendees about what they’re doing to go up against known workforce challenges, specifically the staffing shortage, and how OnShift can and will continue to help as a partner in the profession.

What we do know is that a focus on frontline workers is key and several conversations and speeches throughout the event centered on strategies for employee engagement in long-term care and senior living. It seems that no one is immune and the staffing shortage is felt by all in these industries.

But there were several other key themes present.

Strong Leadership Is A Non-Negotiable

I noticed that many of the presentations and discussions at the conference centered on the importance of solid leadership. Keynote speaker Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, did a fantastic job talking through the leadership qualities demonstrated by those who have led outstanding organizations over the past years and covered the concepts of Level 5 Leadership, confronting the brutal facts and developing a culture of discipline.  

NCAL Day also featured speaker Phill Fogg, President & CEO, Marquis Companies & Consonus Healthcare, who talked about getting to the root of workplace problems. He relayed an example of high turnover during a particular shift at a community. This community continued to dole out a higher hourly rate in hopes of fixing the problem to no avail. The wage incentive only put a band-aid over the underlying issue, which continued to bubble up over and over again.

When this organization finally dug a little deeper, they discovered the nurse in charge of the shift had poor managerial skills that resulted in dissatisfied employees leaving. Had they investigated sooner, they would have saved money in both hourly wage increases and avoided the high cost of employee turnover. Fogg said that this practice of getting to the root cause of problem is at the center of the work he does today.

What Else Is Keeping Providers Up At Night?

According to a panel that was held during NCAL day, emergency preparedness and potential federal regulation are top of the list next to staffing challenges in senior living.

In response to the tragic situation in which 14 residents died in Florida during hurricane Irma, all nursing homes and assisted living communities in the state were ordered to obtain generators and enough fuel to sustain operations for at least 96 hours following a power outage within 60 days.

The fear is that data collection will become more important over time and that senior living will face a similar degree of federal regulation as the skilled nursing setting.

According to Ashley Blankenship, BBA, Vice President of Operations and owner of Southridge Village Assisted Living in Arkansas, “We had home- and community-based services and CMS potentially stepping in to your operations of your businesses. I don't even think it's a crack. We're already receiving letters from federal legislators asking for data on assisted living. This is already happening, and it has been happening, and it is something that we need to be concerned about, because the data is going to be required.”

Read the full article on the panel from McKnight’s Senior Living here.

If you haven’t attended an AHCA/NCAL annual convention, you should consider doing so.  It’s an ideal environment to both learn and reenergize. I always leave with a deeper understanding of why we do what we do and what I love about this profession. Next year’s convention will take place in October in San Diego. I look forward to seeing you there!

1The AHCA Board of Governors, courtesy of AHCA.

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