Mil­len­ni­als Award: Pro­vid­ing em­ploy­ees with a sense of mean­ing

Modern Healthcare - - BEST PLACES TO WORK 2017 - By Rita Pyril­lis

Younger work­ers are of­ten drawn to fun work­place cul­tures, hip of­fices and cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy, ac­cord­ing to scores of stud­ies on mil­len­ni­als, and that puts home health­care and hospice agen­cies at a dis­ad­van­tage when it comes to re­cruit­ing. Yet em­ploy­ers in those sec­tors are find­ing ways to at­tract a younger gen­er­a­tion to the chal­leng­ing work of car­ing for the sick, el­derly and dy­ing.

“Mil­len­ni­als are in­ter­ested in the new and cur­rent; hos­pices are about death and dy­ing,” said Kaaren Flint, com­mu­nity outreach and ed­u­ca­tion spe­cial­ist at the Hospice of the North­west in Wash­ing­ton state. But Flint, who is 32, points to some­thing else that the younger gen­er­a­tion val­ues and her work­place pro­vides—a job with mean­ing and pur­pose.

“Every day I get to come to work and ed­u­cate peo­ple on how they can

change the stigma around death and dy­ing,” she said. “I can help fam­i­lies in need of sup­port. I feel like I’m do­ing im­por­tant work.”

And that’s ex­actly what hospice em­ploy­ees are do­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Dana Broth­ers said.

“I can­not think of a field that makes more of an im­pact on a per­son and a fam­ily’s life than hospice care,” she said. “Peo­ple come to us in a panic and our team gives them the spir­i­tual, so­cial and med­i­cal sup­port they need at a dif­fi­cult time, and they are hugely grate­ful. Many of the mil­len­ni­als we work with are in ad­min­is­tra­tion but some are line staff car­ing for pa­tients and their fam­i­lies. They know as soon as they walk in the door that they are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.”

Of course, gen­er­ous health­care ben­e­fits, flex­i­ble sched­ules and a $5 monthly gym mem­ber­ship at an af­fil­i­ated hos­pi­tal don’t hurt, ac­cord­ing to Broth­ers. But she said that what her younger col­leagues value more than the ben­e­fits is the sense of in­de­pen­dence that the hos- pice fos­ters.

“We pro­vide an en­vi­ron­ment where you don’t sit and do the same thing every day,” she said. “Mil­len­ni­als like to step out of their com­fort zone, and this field, this ca­reer, this team al­low that to hap­pen.”

As baby boomers age and the de­mand for hospice and home health­care work­ers grows, at­tract­ing new tal­ent to a field with a short­age of qual­i­fied work­ers and high turnover rates will be­come more ur­gent in the com­ing years.

About 20% of the hospice’s 56 em­ploy­ees are un­der age 35, ac­cord­ing to Broth­ers—a num­ber that she says is unusu­ally high for this line of work.

Per­haps few em­ploy­ers un­der­stand the vi­tal role that mil­len­ni­als will play in the fu­ture of hospice and home health­care more than Maria Nam, a 33-year-old reg­is­tered nurse and founder of Ad­van­tage Home Health Ser­vices in North Can­ton, Ohio.

She was just 23 when she started the home health service com­pany in 2008.

“It’s an au­ton­o­mous en­vi­ron­ment here and you need to think on your feet,” she said. “You’re out there alone at pa­tients’ homes. If there’s a prob­lem, you can’t hit the code but­ton on the wall for help.”

About 60% of the agency’s 100 nurses, phys­i­cal ther­a­pists, so­cial work­ers and home health aides are mil­len­ni­als. Good men­tor­ing is one rea­son that Ad­van­tage has been so suc­cess­ful at pre­par­ing staffers for the de­mands of the job, she says.

“We just hired a phys­i­cal ther­a­pist who re­cently grad­u­ated from col­lege,” says Nam. “Our di­rec­tor of re­hab was wary about hir­ing a new grad, but then took it upon her­self to teach and guide him.”

An­other fac­tor in at­tract­ing younger work­ers is the com­pany’s early adop­tion of elec­tronic health records, iPhones, iPads, Skype and other tech tools that en­cour­age care­givers to col­lab­o­rate, ac­cord­ing to Brian Nam, the com­pany’s pres­i­dent and chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer and Maria’s hus­band.

Given that the av­er­age age of all work­ing nurses is 50, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Nurses As­so­ci­a­tion, and the av­er­age age of phys­i­cal ther­a­pists is 40, Brian Nam said he is pleased to see so many young clin­i­cians work­ing along­side vet­eran home health pro­fes­sion­als.

But it’s not all work at Ad­van­tage. The Nams are big fans of ’90s mu­sic, so when they heard that an “I Love the ’90s Show” was com­ing to nearby Cleve­land this fall, they planned a “’90s dress” con­test to give away tick­ets. They’re also fond of Car­pool Karaoke con­tests, which ask em­ploy­ees to name the first five songs sung by James Cor­den and his guest on “The “Late Late Show With James Cor­den.”

The Cres­cent City is 45 min­utes from MedKoder, in Man­dev­ille, La., but the med­i­cal cod­ing ser­vices firm tries to keep the Mardi Gras spirit alive for its 75 em­ploy­ees with cel­e­bra­tions for hol­i­days, mile­stones, New Or­leans Saints vic­to­ries and of course, Mardi Gras. A work-hard, play-hard ethos is one rea­son 30% of its work­force are mil­len­ni­als, ac­cord­ing to Wendy Lorenz, se­nior hu­man re­sources gen­er­al­ist at MedKoder.

Given that MedKoder is a tech firm, at­tract­ing younger work­ers isn’t as chal­leng­ing as it is for other em­ploy­ers, but cre­at­ing a work­place that gives them a sense of in­de­pen­dence is im­por­tant in keep­ing them.

“There’s a lot of trust and au­ton­omy and ini­tia­tive and re­spect for in­di­vid­u­als,” she said. “I can’t say that our re­cruit­ing strat­egy fo­cuses on mil­len­ni­als specif­i­cally, but we at­tract them be­cause of who we are.”

At Black River Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal in Wis­con­sin, the or­ga­ni­za­tion con­tin­ues to in­vest in state-of-the-art tech­nol­ogy such as imag­ing equip­ment and to train staff in the lat­est ev­i­dence-based prac­tices to at­tract and re­tain top tal­ent and en­sure high-qual­ity care.

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