Vaccination has always been the key to defeating the Coronavirus and as the number of people getting vaccinated increases, our country is seeing a decline in new cases and deaths. Vaccinations are also seen as they key to seeing a return of SNF census to pre pandemic levels. Vaccinations are critical to our country and the skilled nursing industry yet according to the CDC over 60% of nursing home employees are opting to not receive the vaccine, while 78% of residents have received it.
In the race to rebuild census, vaccinations will play a key role in deciding the winners and losers of this race. The public must regain confidence in the safety of skilled nursing facilities and that will only come when a facility can show that the risk of contracting the Coronavirus in their facility has been reduced. Stating that 70-80% of their employees have received the vaccine will go a long way to restoring confidence.
While census is generally the concern and responsibility of the admissions and marketing staff along with the administrator the fact is that census impacts each and every employee. A decline in census impacts staffing needs along with cash flow and profitability of the organization. Ultimately this impacts every employee of a facility.
There are a variety of reasons given for the low vaccination rates of nursing home employees including concerns about the safety of the vaccination, its effectiveness and the belief that contracting the Coronavirus is not all that serious. Leadership of SNF’s should consider combining education of the vaccination, with the impact of a low census and an incentive for all employees to help build census.
Begin with company wide communication to dispel the myths and concerns about the vaccination. The communication plan could include:
- Video from facility leadership discussing the safety of the vaccine as supported by industry experts along with video of each of them receiving the vaccine
- A video of employees who received the vaccine sharing their experience to dispel concerns
- Video of residents thanking employees for doing their part by getting the vaccine and for the excellent care they have provided throughout the pandemic
- Identify vaccination champions within different positions in the organization who will tout the safety and benefits to getting vaccinated including within their personal lives outside of the facility
The next step is to educate all employees on the importance of the census and the impact it has on all members of the organization. Explain the importance of rebuilding confidence within the community regarding the safety of sending loved ones to their facility. A step in that process is the ability to share with the community the high rate of vaccinations among the staff to help stop the spread of the virus. Explain that by getting vaccinated they are each doing their part to create a safer environment for the residents and greater confidence among family and other members of the community.
The final step is to set a census goal for the coming quarter or half year. Schedule a kickoff date, bring in bagels or lunch and share the target goal for the chosen period. Encourage each employee to share the efforts of the facility, including vaccination efforts, with the people in their life. To help create buy in and a sense of shared purpose consider offering a bonus at the end of the period if the facility hits its census goal. The current environment may seem like an inopportune time to be creating additional expenses, however, consider the financial impact if census increases.
A facility with 100 employees could offer a $100 bonus at the end of the period if the facility meets its census goal. While the cost of $10,000 may seem extreme in the current environment, it is small price to pay if it leads to more employee vaccinations and greater employee focus and engagement, in the area of census development. If $100 is too high then lower the dollar amount or replace with celebration at the end of the period if the goal is met.
Census may naturally rebound over time however this is an opportunity to engage all employees and focus on rebuilding more quickly which will benefit residents, staff, and the organization.