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Help at Home, Interim, CareAcademy Execs Discuss Home Care Staffing Situation

By Joyce Famakinwa | December 10, 2021

The COVID-19 emergency, vaccination mandates and other challenges have served as a powder keg in relation to the staffing pressures home care providers were already facing. Yet some providers – including Help at Home and Interim HealthCare – have been able to at least partially defuse the explosive situation via dedicated recruitment and retention strategies.

“We all want to keep our clients and caregivers healthy,” Tim O’Rourke, Help at Home’s home care president, said Thursday at the Home Health Care News Home Care Conference. “There are mandates in some places we do business. And in other places, there aren’t mandates. We educate our caregivers on the effectiveness and the merits of the vaccine. We also educate our caregivers on testing and personal protective equipment (PPE), and all the other pieces of effective [COVID-19] prevention.”

Chicago-based Help at Home offers in-home and community-based care in nine states. The provider serves about 50,000 clients on a monthly basis and employs 32,000 caregivers.

Another step Help at Home takes to keep caregivers is providing vaccination incentives. The company hasn’t seen its service areas with vaccine mandates in place take a staffing hit, according to O’Rourke.

“Our vaccination rates are really high in those places where we [have] those mandates,” he said.

Similarly, Interim HealthCare has also leaned on vaccination incentives, such as free dinners and various prize giveaways.

We offer education. We offer incentives. We gamify it. We do drawings for people that get vaccinated. All of those pieces,” Jennifer Sheets, president and CEO of Caring Brands International and Interim HealthCare, said during the event. “But we don’t want any clinician to leave.”

Based in Sunrise, Florida, and a part of Caring Brands National, Interim is a franchise that provides home health, senior care, hospice, palliative care, pediatric care and health care staffing services through over 330 locations in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

Sheets noted that the company’s strategy has been bifurcating its workforce.

“[We] make sure that [for] those that fall under the mandate, we’re redeploying the ones that are vaccinated,” she said. “And the ones that aren’t, they’re providing service somewhere else where we can use them.”

For home care agencies that are struggling to increase their caregiver vaccination rate, dispelling myths and misinformation is the best approach, according to Helen Adeosun, CEO and founder of CareAcademy.

“We had a lot of direct care workers who had misunderstandings about what COVID-19 essentially was,” she said during the event. “Before we talk about vaccine mandates, before we talk about the vaccine itself, we had a lot of direct care workers who felt left behind in terms of understanding the moment and understanding what the disease was.”

CareAcademy is a Boston-based training platform for home care professionals. The company currently serves roughly 1,000 home care clients and locations.

Generally, providers who are making sure caregivers are receiving the right information and offer room to ask questions are seeing higher levels of vaccine compliance, Adeosun noted.

Aside from vaccine concerns, providers have implemented other strategies to beef up recruitment and retention efforts.

Earlier this year, Interim launched “Made for This,” a recruitment campaign that focuses on placing job candidates in careers in the home-based care industry. The company’s campaign includes opportunities for professional expansion, professional development and specialized training.

“A lot of people were being displaced from their jobs, and, at the same time, we needed every single health care worker we could get,” Sheets said. “We started thinking about how to capitalize on the fact that so many good people are out there looking for work, and that’s where ‘Made for This’ came from.”

As a result of the campaign, Interim has seen a 13% increase in its workforce, according to Sheets.

At Help at Home, revamping and streamlining the company’s recruiting process has been a key to success.

“We realized, as we went through it, that the hoops we were making people jump through to get a job were kind of ridiculous,” O’Rourke said. “We were ruthless in terms of … pulling out what we didn’t need people to do: the duplicate paperwork, duplicate interviews. We streamlined that process.”

Streamlining the process also meant decreasing the time it took for potential candidates to hear back from Help at Home, which also recently updated its payroll system.

“Now we’ve gone from days to hours, in terms of the time and that funnel,” O’Rourke said. “We changed our whole payroll system. We now have payroll weekly. You can get interviewed, have a job in that same day, and then have a paycheck a week later.”

As far as retention, Adeosun has found that agencies that have mastered providing “soft supports” often achieve the best results.

“One of the organizations that we work with has, for the last 30 years, always made sure that starting on Day 1 to Day 90, caregivers would get at least a weekly hour-long [check-in] call from someone in the back office,” she said. “It’s made all the difference in the agencies that I work with.”