While there’s no doubt COVID has impacted workforces in every industry, the healthcare sector has perhaps been hardest hit. Already struggling to attract and retain workers, the combination of lockdowns, home schooling and time off due to illness has pushed many to the brink.
This is particularly true of home health organisations that employ a large contingent of support workers. As healthcare assistants and caregivers, they provide valuable services such as assisted daily living (showering, toileting, food preparation), community access (driving clients to appointments or social events), and companionship.
With our population ageing and more people choosing to stay in their homes supported by care services, these workers are crucial within our communities.
However, a range of factors have made it difficult to attract and retain healthcare support workers over the years such as:
- low pay
- long hours
- physically and mentally taxing work
- lack of work pattern predictability
Underpinning these is the fact that many health support workers say they don’t feel equipped with the necessary skills, tools or resources to provide the support they feel clients deserve.
This disconnect between what they need and what they receive can result in what’s called “moral injury”: acting or witnessing behaviours that go against an individual’s values and moral beliefs.
Moral injury can contribute to instances of stress leave or resignation, and could even result in a workers compensation claim. In fact, Australian Workers Compensation Statistics released by Safe Work Australia showed the healthcare and social assistance industry had the highest portion of serious claims in the 2019 to 2020 period. Of the proportion of claims related to disease, mental health conditions (of which moral injury may be classified as PTSD or depression) were the most common.
More training for leadership and creating a culture that embraces conversations around health and wellbeing could help to mitigate these risks. One study found that implementing an effective wellbeing program resulted in an average 30% reduction in workers’ compensation and disability management claims, as well as fewer sick days. Teaching leaders to recognise the signs of burn-out (emotional and physical) and encouraging open conversations may prove very beneficial for retention.
Boosting retention with better systems: a case study
No one wants to go to work feeling like they can never be at their best, and those who do aren’t likely to stick around for long.
So what does it take to create change for health support workers who feel this way?
Perhaps we can reflect on a recent case study with Regal Health which has been delivering home health services for over 50 years and employs hundreds of support workers.
To cater to the next stage of their development as an organisation, all systems were completely re-designed; a decision that has produced phenomenal results – including boosting retention and the ability to attract quality staff.
Featuring an integrated technology stack with Skedulo as a key element, Regal Health’s CEO says the new system has supported strong revenue growth and allowed them to fulfill 97% of jobs even when 48% of staff were isolating during Omicron’s worst wave.
In addition to greater oversight, assurance and data insights for leadership, the move to a new system now means workers have much greater transparency over their schedules and can plan their lives outside of work. They also feel more supported to provide the best service to their clients.
“75% of our workforce is casual by choice and Skedulo makes it easy for them to specify when they can work, where they want to work, how far they want to travel, and what types of jobs they want to take on,” says Regal Health’s CEO. “It also reduces pressure on them when they’re in the field. For example, they can use the system to raise an alert for any issues and we can have another support worker or nurse out to the client that same day. Our people feel supported which is very important in our industry.”