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Illinois Legislation Brings Employee Burnout Front & Center

July 9, 2019 | Lisa Fordyce

How Providers Can Help Employees Avoid BurnoutIt’s no secret that staffing levels are under constant scrutiny. Many skilled nursing providers are scrambling to staff consistently due to high turnover rates and a growing staff shortage. And now for providers in Illinois, it could lead to hefty fines. Under this latest state legislation, fines will be administered to those failing to meet the required 2.5 hour daily direct-care level. However, there is a silver lining—the state’s FY2020 bill also allocates $170 million to help these facilities meet the requirements and avoid fines. Additionally, another $70 million will update the reimbursement formula for support costs such as food, utilities, maintenance and equipment.

This funding comes after a string of 20+ nursing homes closures in Illinois over the last five years due to budget cuts and insufficient Medicaid reimbursement rates. According to The Southern Illinoisan, “Labor and senior care advocates say this will help hold nursing homes accountable and make life better for workers and patients.”

“Nursing home workers deserve a safe and secure work environment where caregivers are not constantly overburdened, exhausted, and stressed trying to care for sometimes up to 30 or 40 residents, if not more, at a single time,” Greg Kelley, president of the SEIU Healthcare Illinois union, said in a statement. “This victory to stop short staffing in Illinois is nothing short of historic for our state’s nursing home workforce.”

This bill is called “historic” and simultaneously addresses the health and safety of both residents and caregivers. Overworked employees cannot provide the quality of care that residents need and deserve. Unfortunately, this is the stark reality in many nursing homes.

Employee burnout, as many call the problem, is detrimental to both the employee and the employer. A Gallup study found that 23% of employees report feeling burnt out at work often or always and that 44% feel burnt out sometimes. The key takeaway? Two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout in some form or fashion. Research shows that these workers are 63% more likely to take a sick day and 2.6x more likely to be looking for another job. Feeling burnt out can take a toll on one’s physical and mental health and tends to hinder job performance, which means that the quality of resident care they provide could take a hit. And I’m sure your other staff members would not be thrilled to work with someone who isn’t pulling their weight.

So, how can employee burnout in senior care be remedied? I think that’s where providers have the opportunity to step in.

We are often so focused on staying afloat and making sure our reputation is intact to appeal to investors, that we forget to take care of our initial investment – our frontline workers. It’s when we do take care of our staff, especially those that are closest to the residents, that everything else falls in place. Employees are happier, residents receive better care, rave customer reviews and high ratings roll in, and business thrives.

It’s interesting; while I was researching strategies for preventing and correcting caregiver burnout, I couldn’t find much. Many of the articles out there offer preventative measures for the employee to take. While I think workers can do their part to avoid burnout, we need to do a better job of taking care of our own. Here are some of the strategies that we at OnShift and I myself in my 30+ years on the provider side have found to be successful.

Keep Tabs On Employee Overtime

Overtime is not only costly, but when it goes unchecked, could leave many of your employees feeling burned out. That’s why it’s so important to keep close tabs on how your employees are being scheduled. Start by looking at your master schedule. As a best practice, overtime should never be included on any master or newly posted schedules. Instead, keep them as open shifts and allow employees to volunteer to fill them, prioritizing those who are at least risk for incurring overtime.

It’s also important that providers closely monitor utilization rates for each employee. Look for full-time employees that may be overutilized, meaning they are working more hours per week than they should be. Additionally, look for part-time employees who are underutilized and therefore available to fill gaps.

Of course, in order to do this, you need the right level of visibility. OnShift can help schedulers and managers understand how they're utilizing their staff, as well as provide best-choice recommendations to help avoid excess and unnecessary overtime.

Finally, regularly review availability and address scheduling changes right away. Many hourly employees work multiple jobs and have other responsibilities such as school or families that they are trying to juggle. Make sure the hours they are scheduled actually work for them. Not only can this help avoid frequent call-offs or no shows, but potential burnout.

Promote Financial Wellness

Burnout isn’t just the result of working long hours. Other stressors, like a lack of financial stability can also contribute. Many hourly employees are living paycheck to paycheck, and are barely able, if able at all, to cover unexpected expenses. These employees aren’t working long hours for their health, they need money, and are sacrificing their own well-being to secure it.

Providers can help employees achieve financial wellness by offering access to earned wages between paychecks. Doing so helps them avoid overdraft fees, high-interest payday loans and credit card debt. We did some digging into our data and found that employees who use OnShift Wallet are spending these funds responsibly. Our data shows that 89.7% intend to spend the funds on bills, groceries, rent and unexpected expenses and that 75.1% of users have avoided paying bank overdraft fees, late payments, payday loans or other fees.

Foster An Employee-Centric Culture

In my time as an operations leader, I saw retention committees work wonders and successfully bridge the gap between staff and management. These committees meet on a regular basis to foster discussion, offer resources and gather feedback to relay up the chain of command. Employees tend to trust their peers and having such a committee can uncover unresolved issues and, conversely, awesome ideas that might fly under the radar.

Fast and frequent surveys are another way to collect feedback and give staff a voice. Providers that use OnShift Engage’s pulse surveys have been able to uncover and correct issues that may have led to employees turning over had they lingered.

And finally, I can’t leave out one of the most important pillars of a great culture: celebrating the employee. Reward jobs well done, celebrate tenure milestones, birthdays, anniversaries and other life events, and by all means, have fun. Caring for residents can be challenging, so keep morale up with a monthly potluck, raffles and other perks.

The bottom line is this: when we fail our employees, we fail our residents. Let’s do all that we can to end the vicious cycle.

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About Lisa Fordyce

Having started her career as a caregiver and expanding into operations leadership, Lisa has held senior executive operations positions at national senior housing organizations, leading overall business strategies and day-to-day operations to deliver quality resident care and services. She is one of the most widely recognized operations leaders in the senior living profession and is known for her ability to make an impact by emphasizing both business and quality care. Prior to joining OnShift, Lisa was Chief Operating Officer at Senior Lifestyle Corporation, leading the overall operational strategies. She has held operations management positions with Emeritus Senior Living and ARV Assisted Living and served as an Ohio Assisted Living Association Board Trustee. Lisa is also an avid volunteer, raising money for Lungevity - Breathe Deep Newark, working as a teacher volunteer for preschool and k-3 children, and participating in a Helping Hands program at her local church.

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