Considering a UAP? Look for these traits

Evaluate their cost-effectiveness

If you are considering hiring unlicensed assistive personnel (UAP) in your agency, have you thought about the type of characteristics you need in such a position, job experience aside?

"Directors must first determine the range of activities that need to be performed by the [UAP] staff. Go through an activities analysis to determine how much of this care is needed by the patient. Do you know if you can really build an effective day’s work for these employees?," questions John Templin Jr., CHC, FACHE, president of Templin Management Company, a home health consulting company in Greenfield Center, NY.

Compare RNs to UAPs

One way to make that determination is to evaluate and compare the salaries you are paying all of your staff, says Templin. For example, "if a UAP receives a salary that is approximately half of an RN’s salary, one could argue that as long as the UAP is busy more than 50% of the time on the cost per activity basis, it’s actually cheaper for the agency. If a $7-an-hour employee is busy 70% of the time, effectively they’re costing you $10 an hour, whereas a $14-an-hour RN who is busy 100% of the time is still costing you $14 for that activity, or 40% more than the UAP who is busy 70% of the time," Templin illustrates.

"However, if the RN is only busy 90% of the time, her effective cost is even higher. Agencies need to ask themselves whether they have sufficient volume so they can make up the workloads for this person based on the health codes or laws within the particular state in which they’re operating."

If you are considering using UAPs to enhance your care plans, Faith Barry, senior director of branch operations with Interim Health Care Services in Tucson, AZ, who currently uses UAPs, advises directors to consider looking for those individuals who meet the following criteria:

Health care background.

"We’re looking for people preferably with health care backgrounds," explains Barry. "The on-call jobs are difficult and stressful. There’s a certain kind of person who is well-suited for this position in terms of temperament. Furthermore, their family situations must allow for them to take phone calls all during the night."

LPNs, former home health aides, and experienced health care administrative people all make potentially excellent candidates, adds Barry.

Customer service skills.

Having strong customer service skills is perhaps the best skill a candidate can bring to this type of position, says Barry. "We look for people who have strong customer service skills because they are awakened frequently at night, but they still have to be poised and gracious."

Judgment.

Barry says another strong characteristic these employees should bring to the job is a sound sense of good judgment. "These employees will be acting independently and they need to understand when to call for help, when not to call for help," says Barry.

n Planning and organizational skills.

Although a four-year degree is not required for this position, Barry says a lot of staff in this position do have a four-year business degree. "We’re not looking for analytical skills, but rather strong organizational skills and attention to detail. Their telephone manner must be good and they must display a sense of responsibility."

n High work standards.

Barry says she also looks for individuals who set high goals and standards of performance for themselves.

Good oral communication skills.

Being able to communicate with patients as well as home health staff in a calm, soothing manner is another characteristic Barry stresses as important for this type of staff.

Initiative.

Candidates for these positions also must display self-motivation, especially because they will be working odd hours and may often be called away from other personal activities.