McKnight’s Long Term Care News Interviews Katie Piperata for Workforce Development Issue

Stress at the Top of the Pyramid

Trade journals are rife with stories about the frontline workforce turmoil that is changing the face of long-term care. Unbeknownst to many, their bosses haven’t been insulated from all of that misery, either.

In a recent blog, Bill McGinley, former president and CEO of the American College of Health Care Administrators, asserted that today’s nursing home administrators “are in the middle of the greatest professional crisis they’re ever likely to face.”

A few have also have told him they will consider transitioning out of their current career when the pandemic ends. Katie Piperata, interim solutions and leadership development trainer for MedBest, an executive search firm for the senior living and care industry, is seeing that play out firsthand.

“Administrators, executive directors and directors of nursing were all hanging on by their fingernails and then 2022 came and they didn’t really feel any relief,” she said. “Since the first of the year, so many friends of mine have completely left this industry because they’re just tired.”

Piperata estimates that as many as half of the administrators across all settings are looking completely outside the industry or are retiring altogether.

Most nursing home administrators have a Bachelor’s of Health Administration (MHA) or a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) in healthcare management, and possess skills that will likely transfer well in non-healthcare roles, Piperata said.

“Many of these folks were running multimillion-dollar operations and there isn’t a software or medical equipment company that wouldn’t clamor to have those kinds of people working for them,” she said.

“These high-level leaders are hardwired to be successful,” added Piperata, herself a former nursing home administrator who also provides leadership training in her role. “They wanted to provide quality outcomes, but it seems to many of them the deck was stacked against them. The regulatory side also is becoming more punitive than ever.”

For many, the final blow came at the end of 2021. When many saw friends in the corporate world outside of senior living earn big performance bonuses, huge consulting retainer fees or land at-home gigs, “a lot of long-term care companies had stopped paying out severance, held earned bonuses and nobody was receiving even a kind commendation for doing good work,” she said. “It’s no wonder they don’t feel successful or appreciated.”

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