Last month Jane Anderson didn’t conduct a single interview for open positions at the senior living community where she works.
That’s a troubling problem to have, particularly when the facility’s workforce is short-staffed by up to about 40%.
Anderson is the Housing Director of the Assisted Living Benedictine Court in St. Peter. She said the hiring struggles aren’t exactly new to the industry, particularly to nursing homes. But once COVID hit, Anderson says assisted living facilities started to experience the same issue.
Benedictine didn’t see a large amount of COVID cases on its campus, but Anderson says replacing the staff that was sick or under quarantine became a real challenge. Some employees left for quarantine or illness and never returned. There were veteran workers who were high-risk that either retired or found employment with less risk.
Besides that, the pandemic struck congregate-care facilities particularly hard in the first few months. That meant sick or quarantined workers and long hours for the remaining staff. Older workers found the long hours of physical work too exhausting. Young workers with families, already overwhelmed with distance learning found the extra shifts too burdensome.
Anderson didn’t mince words when it came to the trials of working in long-term care. She said each day brings hard work and unpredictable challenges for staff who have been underpaid for too long. But she noted that the Benedictine campus in St. Peter has adjusted its wage scale for current and prospective employees.
Despite all its challenges, Anderson still believes there are benefits to working in long-term care that no other job can offer. The life experience of the elderly, she says, allows her to learn something new every day. The greatest need currently is floor staff, such as Certified Nursing (CNA) and Resident assistants.
CNA’s require training and clinical work and to be licensed, something the Benedictine campus in St. Peter is fortunate enough to offer. But it’s not just nursing that is experiencing a worker shortage. The facility is also hiring for its culinary and maintenance departments, with most positions offering hiring bonuses and flexible scheduling to attract new applicants.
“You have to have a heart for this occupation,” Anderson said. She stressed that potential employees shouldn’t be discouraged by license requirements. “We are willing to train people,” she said, adding that she believes Benedictine can find the right niche for anyone who interviews for a position.