The Hidden Costs of Employee Turnover in Senior Care

April 22, 2024 | 5 minute read

Niuz Bites:

  • Care staff turnover directly impacts resident health and safety.
  • Turnover begets turnover – the more it happens, the more it will continue to happen.
  • There are ways to fight turnover, and they are surprisingly simple to implement.

What Does Employee Turnover Really Cost Us in Senior and Long-Term Care?

You’re probably aware of the basic costs of hiring a new employee: advertising the position, interviewing, training, the whole nine yards. But when it comes to senior and long-term care, the ripple effects of employee turnover reach much farther than the budget line.

So, let’s chat about why this is a bigger deal than it seems at first glance.

Why is Turnover Such a Big Deal in Senior and Long-Term Care?

Imagine this: You’re part of a family, where every member plays a critical role. Now, picture one of those members constantly changing. Confusing, right? That’s how it feels in long-term care communities when staff turnover is high. Personal Support Workers (PSWs), RNs, and other senior care delivery staff aren’t just employees; they’re integral to the lives of those they care for. When they leave, it’s not just a position that needs filling—it’s a gap in a tightly-knit community.

Staff recognition and appreciation are more than just nice-to-have; they’re essential for retention. A recent study highlighted by the 2022 NSI National Health Care Retention and RN Staffing Report from Nursing Solutions Inc., found that the average cost of turnover for a staff registered nurse in the US is $46,100, with an average range of $33,900 to $58,300. This report also notes that the average time needed to replace a nurse is about 87 days.

Turnover in care delivery and support staff can become a compounding problem if left unaddressed.

What Are the Hidden Costs of High Turnover?

Loss of Knowledge and Consistency

Each PSW or RN has a unique bond with the residents. They understand their small preferences, the subtleties of their conditions, and how to communicate effectively with them. This level of personal care can’t be transferred overnight. The discontinuity affects the quality of care and can lead to dissatisfaction among residents and their families.

Impact on Staff Morale

The departure of a colleague doesn’t just mean more work for the remaining staff. It’s also a blow to morale, especially if departures are frequent. The sense of team and trust begins to erode, leading to a cycle where more staff become disillusioned and consider leaving.

Compromised Care Quality

High-quality care in long-term communities hinges on the relationships between staff and residents. When turnover is high, these relationships are in constant flux, which can lead to errors, missed care, and a general decline in the quality of care.

The Ripple Effect on Reputation

Word gets around. When staff turnover is high, it’s not just the residents and their families who notice. The local community, potential employees, and regulatory bodies take note. This can impact an organization’s reputation, making it harder to attract quality staff and even affecting occupancy rates.

How Can Senior and Long-Term Care Organizations Reduce Turnover?

Prioritize Staff Recognition and Appreciation

Recognition is a powerful tool. Simple acts of acknowledgment, rewards for years of service, and celebrating milestones can make staff feel valued. Staff appreciation goes a long way in fostering loyalty and a positive work environment.

Foster a Positive Workplace Culture

Improving culture and inclusivity means actively listening to staff, involving them in decision-making, and creating a sense of ownership. Organizations that promote transparency and trust not only retain staff longer but also attract top talent.

Enhance Communication

Improving communications within the team can mitigate many issues before they escalate. Regular check-ins, open forums for feedback, and clear channels of communication can improve staff satisfaction and retention.

Invest in Professional Development

Opportunities for advancement and professional growth can significantly impact PSW retention and RN retention. Staff want to know they have a future within the organization that goes beyond their current role. And even if you invest in training and up-skilling care delivery staff and they still choose to move on, word of your investment in them will carry forward and spread, making your organization more attractive to future staff as a place of development and commitment.

FAQ: Tackling Turnover in Senior and Long-Term Care

How do you show staff recognition effectively?

Effective staff recognition can be as simple as a thank you note for a job well done, employee of the month awards, or celebrating work anniversaries. The key is consistency and ensuring that the recognition feels personal and genuine.

What’s the role of leadership in reducing turnover?

Leadership plays a pivotal role in setting the tone for the workplace culture. Leaders who are visible, accessible, and genuinely care about their staff’s well-being can inspire loyalty and a positive work environment.

Can improving the employee experience and staff satisfaction impact turnover?

Definitely, yes. While there is still some confusion over the difference between employee experience and employee engagement, focusing on improving one will naturally improve the other. Starting with the employee experience – considering what a day at work is like for your staff – is crucial. By making staff feel more appreciated, valued, heard, and respected will go a long way to improving employee engagement and job satisfaction. Happy staff are less likely to quit.

Can improving communication really reduce turnover?

Absolutely. Many issues stem from misunderstandings or a lack of clear information. By ensuring that staff feel heard and informed, organizations can prevent the frustration and disillusionment that often leads to resignations. Clear, consistent communication is critical and more importantly, ensuring communications reach everyone on staff is vital.

Employee turnover in long-term care involves much more than the direct costs of replacing staff. It affects the very fabric of care delivery, from the quality of service to the morale of the team. By focusing on staff communication, appreciation, and retention strategies like improving culture and fostering inclusivity, senior and long-term care organizations can not only reduce turnover but also build a stronger, more resilient community. It’s about investing in people—because when staff feel valued, everyone benefits, especially the residents they care for.

Ready to solve your turnover problem?

Build a stronger culture by improving the ability to communicate across your entire organization.