Recruiting and retention in both the home health and home care industries has always been an uphill battle for providers.
In spring, operators had hoped that the job market’s volatility during the COVID-19 crisis would help on those fronts. With tens of millions of individuals forced out of work, they thought, the home-based care labor pool was likely to grow.
There have been some positive signs for recruitment and retention. For example, the Indeed Hiring Lab previously found that home-based care was no longer a job seeker’s market, suggesting agencies were finding the workers they needed.
Anecdotal conversations that Home Health Care News has had with providers — and more recent data from myCNAjobs — is now painting a different picture.
“I think we have to respectfully disagree with that point, because it is challenging for us to find caregivers — and very challenging for us also finding the right one,” Ryan Iwamoto, the president and co-founder of 24 Hour Home Care, told HHCN in September. “That has been probably the biggest challenge that we’ve had.”
24 Hour Home Care is an independent, non-medical home care provider with 20 locations spanning California, Arizona and Texas. Despite its consistent growth and success, recruiting and retention has remained a pain point.
That’s also reflected in a recent, pre-election survey conducted by myCNAjobs, a professional caregiver network that works with home care and home health workers, as well as providers in both fields.
Of 282 respondents in the myCNAjobs’ survey, the majority of agencies — nearly 60% — said they were struggling with recruiting. Over 70% of the agencies said they had recently turned down cases because they were unable to staff them.
Despite more workers looking for jobs in 2020 than any time in recent history, 87% of respondents said COVID-19 has made recruiting harder than it was before.
“COVID will reshape the labor market in many industries for quite some time,” Brandi Kurtyka, the CEO of myCNAjobs, said at the Home Care Association of America (HCAOA) Virtual Leadership Conference in October.
Riding the momentum
Even if recruiting and retention remains an issue for home-based care agencies, they have had the luxury of gaining recognition from political figures in the election cycle and during the COVID-19 crisis that they never have gotten before.
On his end, for example, presidential hopeful Joe Biden announced in July a $775 billion plan to boost the caregiver economy and support in-home care providers.
“One positive thing that I think came out of COVID — and I think this is just a real positive thing for the whole industry — is home care careers are suddenly on the map,” Kurtyka said. “Senior care just got the biggest ‘Got Milk’ campaign that we’ve ever seen.”
Before COVID-19, 19% of caregivers were considering leaving the home care industry, according to myCNAjobs. Only 22% of caregivers saw themselves continuing or exploring a career within home care.
But that could start to change, according to Kurtyka.
“I think we’re starting to see these numbers shift,” she said. “I think it’s really interesting to be a home care agency right now. You have a strong, strong story to tell.”
Home-based care providers have been able to — or are expecting to be able to — gain new clients after COVID-19 has hit institutional-based settings hard. They may start seeing the same from workers.
In other words, health care workers who didn’t used to find home-based care attractive from a career standpoint may start reconsidering.
Finding workers from other industries
For agencies that are finding workers coming from different industries, they’re beginning to realize trends in their hiring practices.
Amy Smith, the corporate VP of revenue cycles at Alternate Solutions Health Network, has had success with hiring restaurant workers on the company’s back-end, for instance.
“After we had already had them on staff, we realized, ‘Oh gosh, why do they work differently?’” Smith told HHCN. “And they would reference skills that they acquired from working as a server.”
Dayton, Ohio-based Alternate Solutions Health Network is a provider of home health care and one of the largest post-acute solutions operators in the country.
When COVID-19 got bad, so did unemployment for restaurant workers. Of the 20.5 million people who lost their jobs in April, 5.5 million of them were from the bar and restaurant industry. While a considerable amount of jobs have been added back since then, the number is still far off from that of pre-pandemic levels.
In cases where a former restaurant worker made it into home care, their restaurant skills enabled them to transition more seamlessly, strapped with the ability to multitask and start certain projects while in the middle of others.
“If an applicant expresses the ability to multitask, regardless of their background, regardless if they’ve ever worked in health care before, it’s great,” Smith said. “It’s about their ability to start, pause, start something else, pause, and go back to something that was started weeks ago.”
Alternate Solutions Health Network wasn’t as interested in hiring early on in the COVID-19 pandemic because its volume had dropped. Now that volumes have picked back up again, the unemployment rate has helped it fill open positions.
The hiring experience during COVID-19 has reaffirmed for Smith and her organization that they need to keep an open mind during the process.
“There are folks who interview who have a specific medical records field degree, and those people aren’t necessarily successful in this job,” Smith said. “They’re not as successful as somebody who’s willing to just work hard. So don’t be discouraged by that lack of experience.”