7 Steps to Strengthening Your Staffing Partnerships

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We’re one month into 2020 and I am very enthusiastic for the year ahead! We’ve had a chance to dig deep into our data, understand the impact we are having on our sector and know what we need to accomplish in 2020 to keep up to our ever-growing demand. The work we do is important and our main focus, our Mission, is to continue to grow our pool of compassionate and dependable health care professionals so we can give Canadian long-term care homes confidence by providing access to an effective and efficient plan that supports employees and keeps residents safe and cared for.

Long Term Care (LTC) was once one of the primary career opportunities for Personal Support Workers. I remember a time when the schedule lines were full and the casual lists long. We’re not there anymore. It’s already proven to be an insurmountable task to deliver senior care in a climate where we are dealing with a rapidly growing aging population, an overburdened health care system and a worker shortage that is unprecedented. Now add competing with unrelated organizations such as daycares, community supports, and adult day programs to keep our valuable PSWs in our sector.  

This is why it’s time for LTC homes to view their staffing contingency as their partner –  we are on the same team. While your home might already be there, many homes are not. They pride themselves on not using an agency even though their internal staffing is on the decline. They won’t offer orientations to the staff coming in. Their employees treat agency staff unkindly. I have heard everything and while there is a lot that is good, we are still dealing with some bad, and unfortunately, some ugly situations every single week.    

Last year our organization covered almost 35,000 shifts in 130 homes. This tells me that you need us as much as we need you. And we can’t do it if we’re not working together.   

While your home is focused on resident care, optimizing your schedule, reducing injuries, eradicating medication errors, keeping up with ministry standards, answering questions from families, balancing your budget and so much more, we focus on just one thing: staffing and recruitment; this means filling shifts and working with you to grow and maintain your workforce. We want to do this for you, our partner, but we can’t do it if we’re not playing on the same team. This is not about LTC homes vs agencies, this is about Team Senior Care.  

Here are some ways you can build a solid partnership with your staffing agency: 

  1. Read your contract. Understand what your agency’s commitment to you is and what yours is to them. This is a partnership remember, which means it has to work both ways. If there’s something you don’t understand or agree with in your contract, ask questions and tweak it in a way that’s mutually beneficial. And whenever something comes up that you’re not sure of, go back to that contract. Understand how you can hire staff from them, the orientation process, what you’re paying for, and everything in-between. Remember, good contracts make for good friends.
  2. We want to make sure you’re spending your money in the best way possible. To us, that means care. When we do things, such as send you suggestions for posting shifts based on your data, have a look, ask us questions and trust us. Our focus is keeping your shifts covered so you can control your costs and keep your agency use down.
  3. Stop asking us that question: ‘I have already oriented 10, 15, 20 staff – why do I have to orient more?’  The answer to that is simple. We are the backup plan and we work very hard to keep our thoroughly-screened pool growing and at the same time, we are not immune to the same staffing challenges that our partners face internally. There are over 4000 PSW jobs posted across Ontario every single week – if we’re not working together to keep our PSWs in our sector, there are 4000 other organizations wooing them. The best way we can keep them coming back is to make sure they have a great orientation with people who understand that the backup staff is there to support them.  
  4. That said, open up the orientations! We have done all of the work. We’ve advertised, recruited, interviewed, screened and completed their file. We did all of the hard work and your job is to now give them a good orientation to ensure they want to come back. By not opening up orientations, or giving our staff a chance to pick up in your home, you are not giving us anything to keep them on our pool. Help us help you through great orientation.
  5. Tell me about the problems as they arise. And be open to working on solutions with us. Give our team a chance to correct their mistakes. Don’t take them off the list after one blunder. Help us educate. Our health care professionals are not any different than yours. They are human, they sometimes have lapses in judgment and they will make mistakes.  
  6. Communicate with your agency. We’re out here thinking about creative ways to help you. When we call or email you it’s because we need to talk to you. Treat us with the same sense of urgency that we treat your staffing with.  
  7. If not now, when? I hear it so often – ‘we don’t use agency’. But the fact is it’s almost impossible to maintain a full complement of staff without one.  Failing to plan is planning to fail. It’s time to start planning now for the weeks, months, and years to come. How much longer are you going to allow your employees to work short-staffed? An agency is one answer in helping your staff feel supported. With the staffing crisis here and with promises of it only getting more challenging to staff our homes, it’s time to partner up with an agency – stat!

These are a few suggestions in helping you strengthen your relationship with your staffing partner. At the end of the day, trust, collaboration, communication, and support are the key ingredients to a successful partnership and will allow LTC homes and agencies to come together in a way where needs are being met, concerns are being heard and ultimately our seniors are cared for and safe.  

~ Sheri Tomchick, President of Plan A Long Term Care Staffing & Recruitment

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