How This Hospice Provider is Building, Retaining Team Members Amid a Critical Labor Shortage

It’s no secret the health care industry is experiencing a critical staffing shortage – and hospice is not immune from the trend.

According to a 2022-23 Hospice Salary & Benefits Report, turnover rates for registered hospice nurses reached 25.15% last year. Nurses also accounted for 16.97% of vacancies. Hospice aides and certified nurse aides, or CNAs, also represented a large percentage of job vacancies and saw high turnover rates, 19.05% and 29.84%, respectively. Providers have also reported shortages among social workers and nonclinical staff.

Overcoming this challenge requires a multi-faceted approach to recruit and retain team members. Candidates are seeking a better work culture that is supportive and collaborative, better compensation and benefits and a better organizational focus on patient care – not the bottom line.

Since its inception, Emmanuel Hospice has been working to differentiate itself in these areas. In addition to providing competitive pay, great mileage reimbursement, paid self-care days and holidays, among other benefits, the nonprofit leans on a thoughtful culture.

“We’re unique,” says Katie Joseph, Emmanuel’s Human Relations generalist. “Number one, we’re independent, so we’re not tied into a larger system where you can get bogged down in red tape.

“We’re very nimble, which makes us able to try new things easily. All of us are under one roof, so if someone has an idea, we’re apt to try it, especially if it shows promise of helping those we serve.”

Another way Emmanuel sets itself apart is by offering a wide array of complementary therapies – everything from essential oils to its Art Legacy program.

“Because of that spirit, we find ourselves with more tools in our tool kit,” Joseph says. “And that translates to more creativity and more opportunities to reach out to our patients and their families.”

Joseph emphasizes a third hallmark: The way Emmanuel’s leadership team cares for its staff members.

“We really do care for our employees,” she says. “We can’t take care of our patients if we aren’t also taking care of ourselves. When someone on our team says ‘What can I do for you today?’ they’re really asking that in a genuine way. Because we know if you’re feeling well-taken care of, you’re better equipped to do that for others.”

According to Joseph, the Emmanuel Hospice culture – its beliefs and values – is imbedded into every aspect of the organization, and to a newcomer, it’s evident from the first interview.

“We are intentionally thoughtful,” she says, “and from feedback we receive, we’re known for our transparency and supportive nature. We want our people to succeed, and in expressing that, nobody is ever treated like a number, like just another worker. In short, we care.”

Something called “vital behaviors” are also baked into everyday life at Emmanuel. Those are statements and affirmations that help all employees understand expectations, codes of conduct and the importance of consistent messaging.

“We start by assuming good intentions of one another,” says Joseph. “We believe in doing what we do and doing it well. And we’re life-long learners.

“Not only do we incorporate these behaviors into everything we do, but we are constantly reminding our staff of them through emails and other updates that stress respect and open communication. We want the best out of ourselves and one another.”

Emmanuel is also very thorough about its onboarding process for new employees, which involves careful transitioning and plenty of room for questions and feedback.

“We want someone to know ahead of time what a situation might require. It’s not unusual for a nurse to spend a half day with a massage or music therapist. That helps each team member realize what another does, and how it all fits together.

“How we all fit together.”

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