This isn’t another story about the shortage of qualified long-term care workers. You know the headlines: Federal Mandates Chase Out Nursing Home Workers, Experts Predict Widespread Closures of Long-Term Care Facilities. It’s such a constant refrain, it’s not news anymore.

Your customers are reeling from the “Great Resignation” unfolding before their eyes. You sympathize, but truly creative pharmacy managers will do more than commiserate – they will engage.

First, Facts on LTC Turnover

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, 45% of healthcare workers left their jobs in 2020 – 11% more than 2019. A study in the UCLA Anderson Review reveals nursing home turnover is even greater than previously thought: nearly 103% for RNs, 129% for LPNs, and approaching 129% for CNAs.

Data reveal a close association between facilities’ Medicare quality scores and turnover, with lower scores correlating closely with high turnover. While no studies have provided a definitive answer to the cost of turnover, one study of California nursing homes revealed a reduction in turnover of 10% yielded annual savings of $167,000.

LTC pharmacies are no strangers to employee losses. There is less data available, but industry analysts put the turnover rate for all pharmacists at around 8% and about 13% for pharmacy technicians. While LTC pharmacies experience fewer employee defections, replacement costs can run much higher.

Understanding the LTC Facility’s Pain Points

Nursing home administrators report that employee retention is the biggest issue facing them for the foreseeable future. There’s no shortage of proposed solutions, both state and federal, to lessen the impact, but your customers face a problem that can’t wait for a distant solution. They need help now.

Shift your approach to connect more deeply. The next meeting when the nursing home administrator gives you an opportunity to listen, rather than simply sympathizing, practice “active listening” by clarifying and confirming. Ask questions: Why do they believe employees are leaving? What options could help solve the problem? What limitations are they facing? What does success in reducing turnover look like?

Active listening is a bit of a lost art, so when you engage another person actively, they tend to notice. You become not just another business associate, but more of a partner. Revealing the retention issues your own pharmacy faces reassures them they’re not alone, and this commonality can help build a bridge toward a positive relationship.

Meaningful Collaboration Between LTC Pharmacies and Facilities

Once we have a better understanding of the customer’s pain points through active listening, what’s next? Curious managers persist by continuing the dialog. This is critical to developing a real understanding of how to help. Although lack of money is often cited as the primary barrier to retention, many employees value non-financial benefits.

Reframe conversations to reveal one or two ideas that hold promise. Then help to find relevant resources. Three areas are especially important:

Maybe you can collaborate to hold informational meetings or job fairs to introduce entry-level workers to future, fulfilling roles. Focus on ways to engage that enhance mutual understanding. The options are only limited by your imagination.

The Payoff for Your LTC Pharmacy

Which customers are the most valuable to your pharmacy – the chronically understaffed with high turnover, requiring frequent interventions by your team, or the ones with experienced staff that collaborate to serve residents more efficiently? Helping your customers improve makes life easier for you and your staff.

The most important benefit from authentically engaging with customers is the bond that results from deeply connecting with the people you support and communities you serve. When relationships are strengthened, business can better withstand the negative forces that challenge the work of your pharmacy.

It is, and has always been, a relationship business. What steps will you take to develop better customer relationships?

The X Factors

  • Actively Listen. When you pay attention to what your customers say, you uncover causes rather than symptoms. Having them articulate their pain points will be gold.
  • Meaningfully Collaborate. Creatively look for solutions and offer suggestions that have worked for you. This moves the conversation from complaining to problem-solving.
  • Take Action. When you have discovered actionable options, act. If the status quo isn’t working, experiment with viable alternatives.

What do you believe are the X Factors for improving retention in long-term care?

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Written by: Paul Baldwin, Baldwin Health Policy Group
Paul’s pharmaceutical industry experience in public and government affairs led to becoming Executive Director of the Long Term Care Pharmacy Alliance, helping lead the industry through the Medicare Modernization Act and creation of the prescription drug benefit. Paul was VP of Public Affairs for Omnicare before founding Baldwin Health Policy Group.
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