Care network addresses employees’ needs

All benefit as they help co-workers

Helping employees deal with problems, illness, and even death in their own families is one tactic used by Riverways Home Care Services of Ozarks Medical Center in Westplains, MO, to retain employees. Because the relationship among the staff is similar to that of a family, anything that happens to one employee affects the others in some way, says Mary Dyck RN, BSN, MHA, director of the agency. "We saw that people wanted to help when someone was ill or had a death in the family but they didn’t know what to do," she says.

Not knowing how best to help a co-worker made some people uncomfortable and raised the stress level for everyone, Dyck adds. Now, when an employee becomes ill or has a crisis in his or her personal life, the agency’s care team network goes into action. "First, we find a facilitator — preferably someone close to the employee and someone with whom the employee feels comfortable discussing their personal situation," Dyck continues.

The facilitator is responsible for talking with the employee, determining what is needed, and acting as the single point of communication. "The facilitator makes it possible for us to stay in touch without the ill employee receiving a lot of telephone calls from many different people," she explains. Once the facilitator determines what the employee needs, a schedule is developed for meal preparation, baby-sitting, housework assistance, transportation, grocery shopping, or other day-to-day needs. "This schedule enables people to sign up for activities with which they feel comfortable and still help the co-worker," says Dyck. For example, a social worker might not want to change beds but is willing to grocery shop, she says. "This organized schedule relieves a lot of guilt among co-workers who want to help but don’t know what to do," she says.

It’s important to have administration buy in to any care network developed because it may be productive to let employees help their co-worker during the workday, says Dyck. For example, a co-worker underwent surgery then needed to undergo dialysis several times a week, but was unable to drive herself, she explains. The facilitator put up a sign-up sheet for employees who would be in the area of either the employee’s home at the time she needed to go the clinic or of the dialysis clinic at the time the employee needed to return home. "Nurses who were seeing patients in the area would pick up the employee. If no nurse was available, office staff were permitted to transport the co-worker," she says.

An important part of this process is that the employee with the personal crisis still feels connected to his or her co-workers. Another benefit is that co-workers who are assigned the absent employee’s workload are not resentful because they understand what is happening and they see it as part of helping out, Dyck says. "When you assign extra responsibilities to others, be sure to spread them out over several people so one person doesn’t assume the whole burden," she suggests. "Also, be prepared for employee filling in not to do the job as well as the original employee."

Whenever a co-worker experiences a serious illness or a death in his or her family, it can cause stress and distraction among other staff members, Dyck points out. Unfortunately, the patients and physicians of the home-care agency still expect business to go on as usual, she says. The benefit of a care network is that it brings structure to the madness and uncertainty that surrounds a crisis and helps everyone focus on day-to-day activities."