More providers are facing competition in the labor market as Hospices continue to duke it out in the labor market.

A number of hospice leaders told Hospice News that the industry’s recruitment and retention ground war is becoming more tense due to the fact that more and more people are leaving. Promises of higher wages, more extensive benefit packages or sign-on bonuses are what this often comes with.

Lynne Sexten, president and CEO of Agrace, one of the largest nonprofit hospice and supportive care providers in Wisconsin, saysuring staff away from competitors is not a new practice.

Sexten told Hospice News that Hospices have long sought to find experienced clinical employees by recruiting them away from other Hospices. Each time a new for-profit hospice tries to enter our market, they desperately try to recruit away our staff with excessive sign-on bonuses or hourly wages.

As demand for new hires continues to outstrip the supply, providers and employees alike are dealing with rampant inflation.

According to the National Association of Home Care & Hospice, wage and salary increases for Hospice workers have ranged from 3% to 6% over the last two years.

According to the recently retired CEO of HopeWest, Poaching is common in Hospice, but lagging reimbursement rates have only added fuel to the fire.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently proposed a pay increase. This has become a point of contention for providers and industry groups who say that this is insufficient in light of higher costs and wage increases.

According to the Department of Labor, the rate inflation was close to a 40-year high in April.

Whitney Borchard told Hospice News that hospices could be left in the dust without relief from the headwinds.

Staffing Challenges Have Worsened

Staffing shortages have been a problem in the hospice industry for a long time.

David Jackson, CEO of Choice Health at Home, said that the competition in recruitment and retention of hospice staff has become more difficult than in the past. The pool of experienced professionals was affected by the Pandemic.

Jackson told Hospice News that the number of employees moving from sector to sector is limited because of the strain on the human capital resources of the health care industry. The hospice industry is pressed on retention competencies with that strain.

According to a nationwide survey, 18% of health care workers have left their jobs during the Pandemic, while 31% have considered leaving the field altogether. Poor wages were one of the main reasons.

With this labor environment coupled with a lack of professional education and misconception about Hospice, they have few options to look for new staff without recruiting from other organizations

David Williams, CFO of Chemed Corp., stated that the ability to recruit quality staff with attractive pay is a crucial part of keeping up with demand for care.

Williams said at the conference that they are looking at the landscape for VITAS to see if there are opportunities for quality people who are working in our communities to leave for VITAS. If we can get aggressive on hiring and retention bonuses, we’ll be able to pick up market share.

Culture a Key to Staving Off Poaching

Hospices have other ways to compete when it comes to attracting new hires. According to providers in the space, workplace culture, flexible schedules and employer adaptability are the best defenses in retaining their workforce.

Whitney Borchard says throwing money at the problem isn’t the answer. People who choose to work in the field often share the same values as Hospices do.

Whitney Borchard told Hospice News that the only way a hospice can compete now is to ensure staff have meaningful work that is doable. People need to understand the nature of this work.

Sexten said that culture and value-focused work factor a lot as staff decide whether to stay at an organization. She said that investing time, resources and dollars into cultivating a healthy workforce culture was a vital part of Agrace’s staff retention efforts.

“Agrace has seen employees recruited away with promises of big sign-on bonuses only for them to return within six months, having learned the importance of working for an employer who truly looks out for employees’ best interests.” The work we’ve been doing for many years to build our culture has aided in our retention efforts.

Sexten stated that the company has put an “extraordinary effort” into creating an environment that allows employees to balance their work and personal lives, as well as fostering communication between leadership and employees regarding their needs.

Sexten said that one size does not fit all when it comes to staff training and scheduling at the Hospice provider.

The hybrid work task force was convened by Agrace to allow departments within the organization to create a mix of remote and in-person work capabilities. She stated that these efforts have led to improved retention.

Alfonso Montiel, CEO of Texas-based Silverstone Hospice, said that organizational culture is important for hospices. The workplace environment is a leading factor in the return of former employees to the hospice.

Montiel said that he was aware of times when a former employee tried to steal team members. We have had a lot of people wanting to join as nurses, aides, marketers, and even front-office roles. Some things seem to have been done right. We have become a great place to work, even though it hasn’t always been the case.