Home health agencies continue to have trouble filling open positions, but the reasons aren’t necessarily what you might think. If you were judge only by the headlines, it would seem that the main cause of the worker shortage is low wages; after all, increasing the minimum wage to $15 has been a hot button issue, and new federal laws designed to increase wages for home health care workers have been a cause for much debate throughout the industry.
While pay is certainly a concern for anyone considering a career in home health, as it turns out, it’s not the primary reason that home health agencies struggle to recruit new workers. Despite the overwhelming need to expand their staff — and high levels of response to job openings — most agencies report that they simply cannot find qualified individuals to fill home health positions.
Looking for a Needle in a Haystack
According to one recent study, more than half of the agencies surveyed reported that finding qualified individuals to fill open positions was their biggest staffing challenge — yet a lack of applicants was the least of their problems. Also not a real issue? Being able to pay competitive wages.
So what’s the problem? Why does one agency report receiving thousands of applications every month, but can only hire a few of those applications? The issue comes down to one word: Qualified. It’s not that agencies can’t hire people to do the work, it’s that they can’t find people who are actually qualified to do the work.
And the definition of qualified varies greatly, from state to state and even from agency to agency. While most home health workers must meet certain requirements in terms of training and certification for Medicare and Medicaid accredited agencies, specific state laws vary.
It’s the same story when it comes to background checks; in fact, 10 states don’t have any background check requirements for home health workers, while the laws in other states vary in terms of whether background checks need to be conducting on state or federal levels or both.
Complying with state and federal regulations for home health is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hiring qualified workers, as well. Depending on the individual agency, qualified might include any combination of the following skills and traits:
1. Education and training in specific knowledge areas/skills
2. CNA certification (at minimum)
3. Soft skills, including compassion, communication, organization, etc.
4. Valid driver’s license and reliable vehicle
5. Technical skills/familiarity with home health care software or ability to learn quickly
6. Solid references
While most agencies say that the most important quality in an applicant is compassion and has an outgoing personality, it can be challenging to find individuals who have those qualities and meet all of the other qualifications. Further complicating matters is the trend for many people to apply for home health agencies as a “stopgap” while they look for a different job.
Over the last decade in particular, home health agencies have seen an influx of applicants who are just looking for any job they can find. Many are unqualified, but of greater concern to many hiring managers is the fact that most of these individuals will leave the company within a year, creating higher levels of turnover and increasing personnel costs.
Attracting Qualified Employees
So what can you do as an agency to attract a more qualified applicant pool? How you advertise your openings and specific qualifications can make a significant difference. More specifically:
- Make your qualifications clear. Outline specific requirements, and make it clear that you will not consider applicants who don’t meet them.
- Consider counting different types of experience. If you will hire individuals who have experience taking care of a loved one, for example, or new graduates who have completed specific courses, note that in your job listing.
- Be specific about the job duties. Some applicants may have an inaccurate perception of what the job entails, and the reality leads them to resign.
- Specify any training opportunities that you offer.
- Note that you will conduct background checks as part of your hiring process and in accordance with state laws.
- Consider requiring certification as a condition of employment to ensure that only qualified candidates apply.
Some agencies have found success by recruiting staff from local community colleges, technical schools, and health care specific training programs. However, because soft skills are such an important part of success in this field, develop an interviewing and screening process that will ensure that all candidates meet the criteria and will be a good fit for your agency culture and client base.
Finally, you may need to address the wage and benefit situation within your agency in order to attract qualified applicants. Agencies that offer robust training and development programs as well as benefits like flexible schedules, reward and recognition programs, retirement plans, and insurance coverage have an easier time hiring qualified workers.
Offering cutting-edge technology can also help attract high caliber workers; to learn more about software that can help you grow your agency and improve services, check out Complia Health’s family of products and how they can help you retain staff here.