The senior living industry has long struggled with staffing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the health care workforce was only put under more strain, and many communities found themselves short-staffed. While the pandemic is a short-term cause of the industry’s struggles, the main cause is that the demand for nursing staff in LTC is outpacing the workforce as the older adult population ages. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that by 2040, Canada will require an 80% increase in all health care staff in order to maintain the current ratio of health care staff to individuals 65 and over.
One of the biggest reasons why the workforce has not kept pace with the demand for LTC is that the industry struggles with staff turnover. Read on to uncover what causes high turnover in LTC and what needs to improve.
LTC tends to struggle with staffing more than other health care settings. In 2020, a long-term care staffing study in Ontario sought to find out why. They found that LTC is perceived as low paying, physically challenging, and undervalued work compared to acute care. This means that health care staff in LTC may be aiming to land a job in a hospital setting.
Within LTC and retirement communities, 1/5 of all health care staff plan to leave their jobs within the next 3 years. They may be starting a new health care position or leaving the field entirely. Turnover rates are especially high for PSWs. According to Health Force Ontario, half of all PSWs are retained within the healthcare sector for fewer than 5 years.
Job stress or burnout is the most common reason why health care workers say they intend to leave their position. Burnout occurs when employees face prolonged exposure to emotional, physical, and mental stressors in the workplace. Heavy workloads, long hours, and high pressure environments are some of the most common causes of staff burnout.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused an increase in burnout among LTC staff. In one study, 70% of nurses gave job stress or burnout as their reason for leaving their jobs, and 43% of PSWs said they left the sector due to the burnout of working short-staffed.
After job stress and burnout, the most common reason why health care workers intend to leave their position is concern about their wellbeing and a lack of job satisfaction. Interestingly, these reasons came up more often than low pay. This suggests that the staffing crisis cannot be solved just by increasing wages. The work environment must also change to provide a manageable workload, work-life balance, and increased job satisfaction.
For people in “helping” professions, job satisfaction in particular plays a key role in retention. According to McKnights, 66% of nurses who plan to stay in the field do so because they believe they are doing meaningful work. When LTC staff can consistently provide high quality care to residents, they’re more likely to stay. But if an unmanageable workload is taking away from their time with residents, they may become frustrated and burn out.
The most effective way to prevent burnout and high turnover in your communities is to ensure your teams are not overwhelmed and under-resourced. Staff in LTC are often burdened by outdated and time-consuming administrative processes. Stacks of paperwork can take away from their time with residents and leave them feeling like they are not making a positive difference in residents’ lives.
Staff need to be supported from the top down with the right tools to be successful in their roles. This will allow them to gain a sense of job satisfaction while easing the stressors that can lead to burnout.
Looking for strategies to reduce burnout and staff turnover? Check out some of our recent blog posts below:
Katie is a member of Welbi’s Customer Experience team! She has a background in communications and recreation and is passionate about older adults, exercise, coffee and people.
Holly is a member of Welbi’s Marketing team! She has a background in communications and marketing, and is a compassionate individual who loves team work, story telling, and wellness.
Wendy is a student in the Honours BA in English program at the University of Ottawa, where she has won numerous awards for her writing.
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