Long term care facilities are, or have been, a home for many of our grandparents, our parents, our friends and our partners. For them, moving to a care facility means calling a new place home. For us, it means trusting strangers to take care of our dearest loved ones. For those reasons, these facilities must be staffed with healthcare teams that can properly provide for the needs of their residents and who care to provide the quality support we all hope for.
Canada’s story of long-term care extends back decades before our time, giving health professionals today a great deal of information to sift through and understand. We have done some of the grunt work by collecting information from trusted colleagues and authorities in the health industry to provide our readers with the most important pieces worth considering when staffing long term care facilities.
In March 2017, the B.C. Ministry of Health published a review on the province’s staffing system for residential care facilities. The review shines light onto healthcare systems within the province, to understand the links between proper staffing and the quality of care for residents. The research findings prompted B.C. to further its dedication to the resources its facilities need, promising a greater future for its provincial healthcare system; the published review provides the industry with insight into healthcare programs across the nation.
The document describes a link between the presence of nursing staff in healthcare facilities and the quality of care. The stability of a staffing structure is associated with an increase in positive patient outcomes, and vice versa. Challenges in staffing related to resident care include nursing turnover, schedule changes, change in staffing variety, staff absenteeism and poor training.
A higher quality of life for residents is linked to a larger number of full-time employees, as it ensures a certain level of continuity in care. Most literature also assumes the correlation of better care quality with an increase in staffing as well as the superiority of healthcare teams. Larger numbers in staff, along with greater experience typically reduces the risk of unwanted and poor outcomes for residents within the healthcare system, dependent on resident needs.
Research on both the national and provincial levels found that with the increasing complexity of needs, there are two factors to consider in healthcare staffing – the level of staffing and the variety of providers. The high quality of care in a facility along with positive resident outcomes is partially attributed to an appropriate combination of these two factors, amongst many.
Long Term Care in Ontario
Amidst the 2018 provincial election, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) released an official challenge to Ontario’s political parties in an effort to request more resources and funding for the facilities families in our province depend on. The document highlights long term care in Ontario, explaining that the province spends nearly eight per cent of its overall annual health budget in this sector and that the 627 facilities are operating at 99 per cent capacity. A breakdown of staffing amongst the facilities is also provided, stating that RNs make up nine per cent, RPNs make 17 per cent and NPs make less than one per cent. Other regulated professionals including physiotherapists and nutritionists make up eight per cent of the workforce, while the remaining 65 per cent is comprised of unregulated staff.
Despite the crunch in staffing numbers, residency in long term care facilities continues to rise, while needs continue to multiply and diversify. Reports show that compared to previous generations, the needs of Ontario’s long-term care residents are more complex now than ever before. These varying needs only put more emphasis on the importance of proper staffing – in numbers and in qualifications. Employing qualified healthcare workers reduces the rate of hospitalizations and mortality, while simultaneously improving client outcomes.
Quality of Care
What is quality care? Industry opinions say that quality care is considered safe, effective, efficient, timely, person-centered and equitable; although, quality care in long term facilities may be more dependent on the quality of life. Given the diversity in needs of residents living in Ontario’s facilities, expectations for providers are varying. However, common opinion remains that seniors are more concerned about living comfortably with their conditions, rather than curing them; particularly in terms of frailty and aging. As conditions progress among residents, they become increasingly dependent on healthcare staff for medical purposes, but more importantly for support in living the rest of their days in freedom and comfort.
Needs in Long Term Care
There seems to be industry-wide agreement that long term facilities need reliable, safe and educated care through proper staffing levels and an appropriate variety in providers. This evidently applies to more complex and unique resident needs as well and requires facilities to staff accordingly based on their abilities to provide. Staffing must also be dependent on the characteristics of the residents (e.g. age, sex, medical diagnosis, cognitive ability, functional status, ethnicity, family relationships, end of life care, etc.). These measures can help to ensure the care of both residents and healthcare staff by creating safe and dependable environments among Ontario’s long-term care community.
HealthOPM is dedicated to being a leader in Ontario’s story of long term care and providing its province with the teams it needs in the facilities we depend on to keep our loved ones safe. We are committed to being the province’s source for healthcare staffing that our system needs. It is in our hands, Ontario, to help determine the potential of our province’s long-term care facilities and the future of the residents we call family; we owe it to them.
If you’re interested in learning about what to consider as a long-term care home when engaging a staffing agency, check out our blog from earlier this month. For more information on how we can help your care facility with recruitment and management of healthcare teams, visit our main site or contact us directly with your inquiry.