It's no secret that the healthcare industry is growing exponentially in the United States. With an aging Baby Boomer population, the industry as a whole is expected to expand by 19% in the next decade, adding over 2.3 million jobs1. This includes jobs in every facet of the industry, including physicians, nurses, hospital administrators, home health aides, medical coders & billers, nursing assistants, and more.

While these long-term growth prospects look promising for healthcare providers and job seekers alike, in the short term many employers find themselves facing a stark shortage of skilled employees. One profession particularly hard hit is Home Health Aide, who are responsible for assisting clients with activities of daily living in their residence or in group homes. Home health aides (and home health care as a whole) offer a more cost-effective solution to provide care to patients, with some studies finding the cost of home health care being 32% less than traditional hospital care2.  As such, the profession is expected to grow by 38% and add over 300,000 jobs in the next decade3, yet even now many home health care providers are struggling to meet the current market demand.

As David Baiada, CEO of Bayada, one of the largest home health providers in the country, puts it "Big picture... the demand for people and providers of healthcare services is outstripping supply by anyone's predictions. The need for people is a top priority"4.

Likewise, government agencies that support the elderly are facing the same issues. Genesee County in upstate New York is currently serving 21 clients as part of its home health services program for the elderly, yet is unable to serve an additional 51 residents due to a lack of health aides5. For those in need of home health care, a lack of skilled aides forces individuals to rely more on family, neighbors and friends, and increases the chance that they will end up in the Emergency Room.

Strategies to Improve Home Health Aide Recruitment & Retention

Home health care providers are, predictably, adopting a number of strategies to retain and recruit home health aides. For instance, Bayada has increased its bonus pay for employees who refer a hired candidate, and are now even providing applicants free Uber rides to their interview4.

Other companies are looking to increase worker empowerment and workplace culture as a way to improve retention. In North Carolina, a number of nursing homes have piloted a program to involve more direct-care workers, including home health aides, in the decision making process6. Back at Bayada, the company introduced a campaign titled "I Love What I Do" as a way to emphasize the importance of the work its employees do.4

Additionally, in a practice that has come more popular across all industries, companies are investing in learning & development for their home health aides and other direct care workers. This investment is aimed at improving both recruitment and retention - home health agencies can use continued learning & development opportunities as a differentiate when recruiting aides, as well as a way to provide them with the skills needed to get up to speed. Likewise, increased learning & development opportunities can help improve retention as it can provide employees the opportunity to obtain advanced certifications, boosts employee confidence, and enhances overall satisfaction. Indeed, in a recent poll over 40% of direct care workers indicated that continuing education would be beneficial to their career6.

Finally, home health care agencies should consider creating partnerships to aid in recruitment. There are myriad organizations out there, be they colleges, workforce boards, staffing agencies, or youth organizations who have the tools to provide training that aligns with these positions. Many of these training programs have externship elements, which offers a great way for agencies to test out talent before hiring an employee full time. By employing these strategies going forward, home health care providers can ensure they are prepared to meet the future market demand.

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Resources: Photo Credit. (1) Healthcare Occupations: Occupational Outlook Handbook (2) The Commonwealth Fund: Hospital at Home Program (3) BLS: Home Health Aides Occupational Handbook (4) Bayada Pulling Out All Stops to Combat Nursing Shortage (5) Help Needed: Counties face home healthcare aide shortage (6) Shortage of Nurse Aides, Home Health Aides, and Personal-and-Home-Care Aides Projected