What could your employees do with more time off? Would they be able to take college classes or pursue new hobbies? Could they be more engaged with their own families? Maybe they could better manage their own health concerns. But whatever they would pursue, many in-home caregivers also want to grab all the hours they can so they can maximize their pay.
At Care Synergy, we have tried to satisfy both those concerns, recently implementing a new work-week schedule for hospice registered nurse (RN) case managers and admissions RNs that seeks to accommodate the demands of the job and to improve their work-life balance.
Care Synergy is a network for not-for-profit community-based home health care, hospice and palliative care providers serving the Front Range of Colorado, including the Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, the Denver Hospice, Pathways, and Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care. The network hopes to balance the care needs of the patients and families as well as time away from work for its RNs.
Take Care of You
The new scheduling program, called “Take Care of You,” compensates RNs with a full-time salary for an 80-hour pay period but only requires them to work a 72-hour schedule in that two-week pay period. This provides greater flexibility at the RN staff level to schedule time to take care of patients and families, and also attend to any personal or family commitments that they have outside of work. The nurses can either schedule half a day off each week or a full day off every other week, with approval from their clinical manager. This equals a total of 26 extra days off per year—in addition to their regular paid time off.
The program was developed as a result of employee engagement and feedback sessions held in the fall of 2021. Take Care of You recognizes the challenges of and rewards the work of nurses and, at the same time, is designed to allow for much better work-life balance and paid time off for employees and team members.
Take Care of You was put in place to help with the recruitment and retention challenges that all health care providers are experiencing and as a way to help our caregivers with fatigue and burn out.
Our approach is not only about scheduling; we strive to find ways to assist employees as a whole with all of the challenges that impact their work-life balance. We also provide robust mental health resources, including access to WorkLife Partners and two employee assistance programs. In addition, because of the specialized care and services each of the affiliates provide in hospice and homecare, they are able to utilize their own counseling staff to help team members with their mental health needs and coping with the stress of their day-to-day work
How well is the program working thus far? One of the presidents in the network said, “In my two years as president, the RN group has never been more satisfied and felt more balanced with their time off. Our RN case manager group has never been happier or more satisfied with scheduling.”
The Take Care of You program works best when additional RNs can be hired to keep caseloads from rising above targeted numbers of 14 to 16 patients per nurse. Many providers in the Care Synergy network struggle to hire additional RNs as caseloads rise. This means RNs are carrying more patients than desired and find less satisfaction with the program. It is a challenging balancing act—juggling hours and caseloads.
The Take Care of You program is a pilot, and the Care Synergy network is trying a number of additional initiatives to increase team member retention and recruitment. As well as providing additional time off, the Care Synergy network also offers improved benefits and mental health support as we focus on taking care of our caregivers. In 2022, we significantly improved our medical plan design and doubled the employer health savings account funding, up to $2,000 annually, while not passing on any increases to employees.
Care Synergy’s team members perform invaluable work in our communities and our priority will remain to take care of them.