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Making Positive Change for Our Workers

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Regardless of the title – Front Line Worker, Personal Support Worker, Home Care Worker, etc. – this field within our health care system desperately needs help. Long shifts, mixed scheduling, time pressure and sometimes unsafe work conditions (as well as other factors) are all reasons for burnout. Of course burnout, in any field, is a top reason for people leaving a particular field, or worse; staying in the field and finding they are providing less than optimal care.

It’s time to start working together to support people who are providing care for our aging population. A strong statement for sure but we need to find ways to overcome the barriers and obstacles facing the people who have cared for (and are continuing to care for) people like my father, maybe your parent(s) and many others around us whom we love.

With funding being withdrawn, or lessened, in the health care field what can we do to continue to get, and keep, the right people in these positions so they know their work is valued and they feel they can continue on?

Imagine this scenario: One shift (or multiple shifts) is/are required to be filled. A notification goes out to your list of workers. One worker accepts, and the others are made aware the shift has been filled. We are now offering shifts that people can work, rather than telling them what they will work. Does this not speak to work-life balance and the potential for alleviating some of the stress that causes burnout?

Of course this doesn’t create a utopic world, but we need to start somewhere.

Any positive impact on employees will have a positive impact on patients and their care plans as well as the patients’ family. This isn’t the conundrum of which came first, the chicken or the egg. The start is clear and precise – doing what’s right for workers in a demanding field that can take its toll.

If you search online anything about health care workers and burnout or stress, the results are almost limitless and more than staggering.

Front line/personal support/home care workers are in the field they have chosen because they care about people. It’s time to start showing them they’re appreciated, and the work they do is extremely relevant in our society today.

Are We Facing an Increasing Problem Due to a Decline in Numbers of Home Care and Direct Care Workers?

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Our society is an aging one in which the elderly require help with more routine tasks at home and the numbers are rising. The need for home care/direct care workers is increasing as direct result. There are many articles written about what can be done to improve this situation as it continues to rise. The number of workers to handle home care isn’t the only barrier, but rather, varying schedules, availability, and multiple geographic areas are further barriers of the current workforce. Having home care/direct workers on payroll can be more succinctly optimized when strong scheduling practices are in place and home care for the elderly can begin to improve.

Frontline workers are in high demand across Canada and throughout the United States of America. As our population ages, the demand is increasingly growing. This puts a higher level of stress on the workers trying to meet that demand. Effective scheduling is one way to alleviate part of that stress.

There are large numbers of frontline workers leaving the industry or quitting their jobs but effective scheduling can decrease the effect ‘burnout’ is having on them. Breaking down shifts so they aren’t so long, and providing more predictable hours can result in frontline workers being happier in their field

Also, being able to immediately see that a worker has overstayed a visit for a patient, or client, allows for a coordinator to reach out to determine the reason and get help if it’s needed. Another way to alleviate another of the stressors this workforce faces – an unsafe work environment. If an employee knows someone is keeping an eye on their time, while they are handling tasks during a patient visit, they can feel more secure knowing that help is potentially available should it be needed.

It seems, though, that as the demand increases this field is still one of the top fastest growing fields. As cited in theatlantic.com ‘Human Capital; Health Care Just Became the U.S.’s Largest Employer by Derek Thompson, Jan 9, 2018 https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/01/health-care-america-jobs/550079/ “Of the 10 jobs that the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects will see the fastest percent growth in the next decade, five are in the health care and elderly assistance. The two fastest-growing occupations—personal-care aides (who perform non-medical duties for older Americans, such as bathing) and home-health aides, (who help the elderly with medical care)—are projected to account for one in every 10 new jobs in that time.” These numbers beg for determining ways to ensure, that while this growth is happening, the people in these fields are taken care of.

There are many reason why frontline workers are experiencing negative impacts because of the field they want to be in and there are fixes that can manage some of this.