How to retain your staff

By Judith B. Clinco, RN

President and CEO

Catalina Home Services Inc.

Tuscon, AZ

Is staff turnover a problem for your agency? According to industry statistics, turnover in the rapidly expanding home care industry is as high as 50% in some parts of the country.

I own and run Catalina In-Home Services Inc., a home care agency in Tucson, AZ. I also work as a consultant to home care agencies interested in starting or expanding their private pay services. I consider controlling turnover very important because it keeps a lid on recruitment, training, and administrative costs — and boosts client satisfaction.

Come aboard and stay

How can you retain employees in such a hot market? Here are some tips that Catalina uses to keep workers on board.

Careful screening: Before hiring a caregiver we check references, driver’s license, driving record, and auto insurance. We do a criminal background check. We also require a TB test and CPR certification.

Careful placements: We work hard to match caregiver and client; our goal is a placement that meets the needs of both.

Midlife caregivers: We welcome midlife women as prospective caregivers. We’ve found that their years of caring for family and home often build skills and attitudes mesh well with the needs of our clients. Because we treat them right, these women often are among our most loyal workers.

Aggressive training: With our multilevel training program, an unskilled new hire can earn nurse’s aide certification in 10 weeks of evening classes while continuing to work as a homemaker/companion during the day. To make training more affordable, tuition is paid in installments. And CNAs who commit to working for Catalina for at least nine months after graduation receive a hefty rebate.

A competitive wage and benefit package: To make sure we don’t fall behind, each year we anonymously poll every other home care agency in Tucson.

High standards for caregivers: Conduct in the client’s home, dress code, punctuality — we spell it out. Most caregivers are eager to do the right thing and just need to know what it is.

Caregiver support and supervision: We provide regular nursing visits, and backup staff if an absence is unavoidable. We recruit supervisory staff who share Catalina’s commitment to supporting and acknowledging our caregivers, especially new hires.

Personal touches: We offer yearly paid vacation, bonuses for recruiting new staff and clients, in-house food service on paydays that gives field and administrative staff members opportunities to know each other, and holiday parties for staff members and their families. As president and CEO, I am on a first-name basis with every employee.

Our approach seems to be working. Our annual turnover is 59% below the industry norm. Many of our employees have been with us more than nine years. It makes good economic policy to maintain a stable work force. In addition, it assures continuity and quality of care to the client.

• Judith B. Clinco, President and CEO, Catalina Home Services Inc., 3148 N. Cherry St., Tucson, AZ 85719. Telephone: (520) 327-6351. Fax: (520) 327-9341.