Disruption is Rarely Pleasant
Disruption has been hitting the field of skilled nursing for many years now, from staffing shortages all the way to general compassion fatigue and retention. And now, we have confirmation that COVID-19 proved to be one of the most disruptive forces to hit the long-term care and skilled nursing industries in decades.
From McKnight Senior Living:
Provider burnout, disengagement, and the resulting shortages that follow are the most disruptive forces facing healthcare providers, including those in long-term care, over the next three years. That’s according to findings from a new survey of 551 healthcare executives by staffing solutions firm AMN Healthcare.
The organization’s 2021 Healthcare Trends Survey Report revealed the wide-ranging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the healthcare industry and how executives perceive that they will affect healthcare management and staffing in the coming year.
Disruptive forces in the long-term care and skilled nursing industry also included the looming threat of more governmental regulation and oversight from the Biden Administration’s HHS Secretary, growing financial pressures based on low occupancy numbers among providers in multiple states, including Texas and Florida, and staffing shortages.
In the face of such disruption, what are the long-term care and skilled nursing industry to do?
Disruption Creates Opportunity
From McKnight Senior Living, yet again:
“Burnout and staffing shortages have been a challenge for the skilled nursing industry for a long time,” Elizabeth Raimondi, BSN, RN, told McKnight’s Business Daily. “Now you throw on top of that the fact that staff are physically and emotionally tired a year into a global pandemic in which many of them have been personally affected by the virus. They’ve been challenged, and many have experienced losses, all of which contributes to their burnout and stress levels.”
In the space of disruption, not many administrators, policymakers, or human resource professionals are looking to take on the challenge of developing new modes of working, staffing, and providing services to the senior population in America, which is predicted to be 20.6%, or 79m people by 2030.
This is an opportunity even in the midst of the ravages of COVID-19, for senior living, skilled nursing, and long-term care providers to rethink five areas of opportunity. From McKnight Daily, “63% of healthcare executives still say they are optimistic about the direction of healthcare year-to-date.”
Disruption Grows Talent and Culture Space in Skilled Nursing
There are five areas of growth in the senior living space that will help providers enagage with combating the results of COVID-19 and the oncoming onslaught of changes to the industry:
Invest in learning, culture, and talent development—For too long, the long-term care and senior living industries have ignored (or downplayed) the value of their human capital, from the nurse level to the CAN level and every level in between. Truly valuing this capital would entail developing and launching learning systems that work, and that stretch beyond safety and compliance, touching on the areas that have real meaning in a crisis—the “soft skills” areas that impact the quality of care.
Invest in creating new communities—The very idea of a community is transforming as the Baby Boomer generation not only ages in place but also begins to push back on the stereotypes and assumptions that underly much of the senior living experience. Nowhere is this more prominent than in rethinking how we construct our living spaces senior inhabit. Technology, access, and connection are going to be the three main drivers of this revolution.
Invest in delivery of services—On-demand, concierge, and personalized service are no longer the province of senior with means. Over the last twenty years, the democratization of access to services has created a culture of impatience that rewards immediate gratification. This will come as a shock to many senior living providers in the next ten years, but subscription-level services are going to be for more than just entertainment. All levels of care in skilled nursing will fall to the tsunami of low-cost, no-code, easily scalable solutions across the spectrum of senior care from mobility to Alzheimer’s and dementia care.
Invest in cultural advocacy—The Senior living industry is beginning to recognize the presence of LGBT-identified seniors and their unique needs. However, over the next ten years, as Generation X ages and as the Millennial generation begins to hit the peak of its earning power and start its long decline, the trend toward senior living, skilled nursing, and long-term care brands identify and carving out space for themselves in the area of contentious social, political, and cultural issues will be key to retaining demographic of seniors who were activists in their youth—and are activists still.
Invest in policy changes—Policy changes that align with payments and rethinking how providers get compensated privately and through Medicare and Medicaid dollars is a long, slow and painful policy process that must be entered into now in the face of ballooning deficits, growing national debt (15+ trillion in the last 10 years and we’re not done yet) and with the growing need for advocacy for seniors beyond the yeoman’s work that many in the industry have been doing for years. Policies that will help the 79m seniors by 2030—and potentially more than that with the Millennial generation graying through the 2040s and the 2050s—is the great work of the senior living industry’s existence in America—and globally.
If senior living providers can stake a claim in any of the five above areas, and make plans to address immediate needs as well as design strategies for long-term success, they will be positioned to survive not only this current crisis but also the future crises that are approaching.