Allison Rainey

5 tips to improve staff onboarding

Given the ongoing staffing challenges in senior living and long-term care facilities, retaining your team members is vitally important. Taking time to design a top-notch onboarding experience can have a real impact on staff retention and satisfaction, and by extension, your organization’s health.

Why onboarding matters

When hiring, our number one priority is to welcome our new employees with a process that will support long-term retention. We need to make sure that when we bring on a new hire, we’re giving them the training they need to feel comfortable and confident. By keeping a clinical team long-term, you foster a culture of family and employees who value each other, as well as a stable healthcare environment that promotes ongoing retention.

Retaining an excellent clinical team is important from the perspective of our residents, too. We have to remember that our facility is their home. Relationships are built that are different from what might exist in an acute care setting where patients come and go fairly quickly. Having consistency in caregivers and a homelike environment supported by quality is critical to success. We want our staff to be happy to come to work each day. Fulfilled healthcare workers support quality resident care and overall resident satisfaction. And, of course, this kind of consistency and teamwork also promotes better resident health outcomes.

So how do you design staff training that will be efficient and effective? I’ll cover five areas to consider in your facility.

Tip 1: Target your training

Comprehensive onboarding is vitally important, but most healthcare organizations simply don’t have the time to orient new staff members for weeks to ensure they get all the details they need. Orientation has to be concise and designed to meet the needs of each unique, new employee. The first tip I suggest is targeted training. This means taking time to identify each new hire’s knowledge gaps and to tailor onboarding specifically to address those needs.

Rather than developing a standard onboarding program that lasts a specific number of days or hours, and requiring new staff go through every piece in the same way, identify knowledge gaps and focus onboarding in those areas. You might be onboarding a nurse who is very experienced with your technology and software systems. These nurses probably need a very different orientation compared to a newly graduated nurse. To be truly effective, we need to be mindful of unique employee needs, and meet them where they are. This will also begin to develop that relationship that is so critical to long-term employment.

Tip 2: Understand the differences between adult learners and young learners

It’s important to be conscious of the fact that adult learners learn differently than young learners. Allow  self-directed learning and provide interactive experiences where possible. Offer resources before the first day, so if they are interested in preparing, your new employee has a place to go. Remember, too, that each individual brings years of life experience with them, and because they’re starting a new job, they are generally highly motivated to learn your workflows and systems. They may need some guidance and direction, but in general, most will not respond well to micro-management.

Tip 3: Assign a mentor

While it’s good to target and streamline onboarding so new team members are up and running as quickly as possible, there are times when more advanced workflows or topics will come along. It is  important to pair a new employee with a mentor as a go-to. Your mentors  should be confident using your technology and  know your processes. In addition to those characteristics, choose people who are good coaches and have a desire to support in this way. Consider mentors who are approachable and encouraging so new team members feel comfortable leveraging a  mentor when they need additional help.

Tip 4: Identify technology champions at every level

Make sure you have people available who are comfortable with your technology, can answer questions and explain how your software benefits staff as well as residents. These champions should be at all levels and in every building of your campus. Don’t default to choosing the Director of Nursing (DON) to be your champion. Certainly, they will guide and provide expertise, but it’s more effective to identify users who are in the system day-in and day-out. Find champions who embrace technology and are happy to help others learn how to leverage systems to be the best healthcare worker they can be.

Tip 5: Choose the right technology tools

An important decision, even before you begin to design an onboarding program, is which tools your facility will use. Senior living and long-term care software can be complicated. If a user gets to a place where they need help with basic EHR functionality, they shouldn’t have to spend time searching for a person or digging up a user manual. “In-app” training and help tools should be embedded in your technology. This gives nursing assistants, clinicians and other caregivers easy access to the training and tools they need 24/7, so they can get the information they need to move on. Their time is precious and we need to protect it.

Commit to a top-notch orientation experience

Staffing pressures are everywhere. When you have a lot of patients and several new hires in orientation, it is tempting to modify standard orientation by cutting it short.

Try to resist that short-term fix. Be strategic in how you design your orientation. Focus on the unique needs of your new hires and shorten training where you can. If we can ensure everyone has a great orientation experience, they’ll be more comfortable and confident in their role, develop strong baseline relationships and be more likely to stay. It all starts by making it a practice and a promise to deliver an orientation experience that sets up new team members for success, fosters a healthy workplace culture, and supports high quality care for your patients and residents.

Connect with MatrixCare to learn how our implementation process and ongoing support for onboarding new hires can help your business run more smoothly.

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Allison Rainey

As our Head of Nursing and Clinical Informatics, Allison Rainey oversees the deployment of clinical technologies. As a Registered Nurse and License Family Practitioner, Allison drives a caregiver-first approach in our products, collaborating closely with product leaders to ensures our products and services prioritize the needs and challenges faced by healthcare providers. By aligning workflows, designs, and overall product strategy, Allison strives to offer the most user-friendly, clinically superior, and efficient suite of comprehensive solutions in the industry. Allison brings extensive post-acute care experience from her 20-year tenure at NHC, one the largest publicly traded Senior Care providers in the U.S. She is a seasoned leader in population health management strategy, clinical reporting and analytics development, and inpatient hospital care. In her most recent role as AVP of Clinical Information Technology, she oversaw the deployment and utilization of various clinical technologies, including the MatrixCare EHR, across the extensive NHC network. Allison holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in Nursing from the University of Tennessee.

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