The looming shortage of home health care workers is of no surprise to most agencies. In fact, most agencies say that recruiting home health workers to their agencies, and retaining great employees, top the list of their major challenges and concerns. With demand for home health services on the rise, most agencies are looking for answers and creative methods of finding new workers to meet the needs of their clients.
Although wages are often blamed for much of the worker shortage in home health — and there is no doubt that pay is a concern — there are other factors that contribute as well. One of the biggest contributors is working conditions. Providing home health services can be challenging, and when combined with long hours, long driving distances, and a perceived lack of appreciation or respect, it’s not shocking to know that many providers feel frustrated and ready to change careers.
Many agencies have begun changing their approach to provider recruitment and retention, offering more opportunities for training and advancement, and providing them tools like mobile software to make their jobs easier. However, one aspect of recruitment and retention that’s often overlooked, but has a profound influence on the people who work for you, is patient satisfaction.
Why Happy Patients Equal Happy Employees
Often, when we discuss the correlation between patient and employee satisfaction, it’s from the perspective of happy employees lead to happy patients. Typically, when employees feel appreciated, are happy in their work, and feel valued, they are more likely to provide excellent service and go the extra mile for patients. What many HHAs don’t realize, though, is that the reverse is true as well: When patients are happy, it can have a profound effect on the providers, and help with your recruitment and retention.
To make sense of this correlation, it’s useful to look at satisfaction levels among healthcare providers overall. Despite the wages and working conditions, home health nurses are actually more likely to report satisfaction with their jobs than nurses in other areas. This satisfaction stems from the fact that home health nurses not only tend to have more autonomy than nurses in other settings, but more importantly, they are able to provide consistent, ongoing care to patients in such a way that allows them to build strong relationships with them. Unlike in a hospital environment, for example, where nurses might only interact with a patient for a few days or weeks at most, for only a few moments at a time, most home health patients are on a more long-term care plan. Home health nurses might spend a few hours with patients on a daily basis, giving them the chance to foster strong relationships.
Building those strong relationships not only helps patients feel well cared for — and thus increase their satisfaction with their care — but also helps home health nurses feel more fulfilled in their work. They feel like they are making a difference and having a direct impact on their patients’ well-being, and that creates a sense of pride. That feeling of pride only grows when patients are happy, and recognize their nurses’ contributions. As an agency, you can use this sense of “making a difference” to recruit new providers, and give them a sense of purpose when they sign on with your company.
Creating a Culture of Satisfaction
In a sense, employee and patient satisfaction are an endless loop, with each influencing the other. There are some things you can do, though, to help put your excellent patient satisfaction efforts to work in recruiting patients.
- Recognize and reward excellence. When patients take the time to recognize your workers, share that recognition with the rest of your team. Make announcements during staff meetings, include the recognition in a company newsletter, or send a thank you note to your staff member’s home. When your team feels like their hard work is recognized, they will be happier and more fulfilled, and you’ll create a nicer place to work.
- Give employees autonomy for service recovery. Things will inevitably go wrong. However, to preserve patient satisfaction, and to help your employees take more ownership of their work, provide training and guidelines for service recovery. Give your employees tools so they can make proactive decisions to solve problems; that might even include a “slush” fund they can access without approval, to do thing like purchase magazines or flowers to delight a patient. By giving your employees some authority, you can help keep your patients happy while also showing that you trust and value your workers.
- Highlight patient satisfaction. When recruiting employees, stress your patients’ satisfaction with your agency and the opportunity to make a difference in others’ lives. Make it clear that patients come first, and you will support all efforts to provide the best possible care and provide a great place to work.
As patient satisfaction becomes a more important indicator of the quality of care, it’s important for your agency to work toward providing the best possible service. In the process, you’re more likely to attract the best providers.
To learn more about the upcoming lack of home health employees, read our white paper on the home health care nursing shortage.