Frontline staff have emerged as heroes during the COVID-19 pandemic, but a new report suggests they’re not always treated that way. As a result, some of them may be lured to other industries for better pay and more recognition.
“I will always say that this job is not about money – it’s about you working with your heart. But you also have to pay your bills.” This is just one insight from a new report, “Would You Stay: Rethinking Direct Care Job Quality,” that takes a deep dive into how frontline healthcare workers feel about their work, why they might leave, and what it would take for them to stay.
Among key findings from the report:
- Direct care workers have been hindered by poor job quality for decades, as evidenced by low compensation, inadequate training, and more.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has put direct care workers in the national spotlight and brought attention to their many deep-seated challenges.
- Now is the time to focus on improving direct care job quality. This will enable employers and policymakers alike to create jobs that satisfy workers, support organizations and consumers, and contribute positively to the economy.
- In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the direct care worker median wage is lower than the median wage for other occupations with similar entry-level requirements. This makes it challenging for employers to recruit and retain enough workers.
- Because direct care workers often are limited to part-time or irregular schedules, 45% of this workforce lives at or near poverty levels, and 47% of these workers rely on public assistance such as Medicaid and food/nutritional support.
- The training landscape for these workers is bleak, and workers often lack the skills, knowledge, and confidence to succeed in their work or advance at all. In fact, career advancement opportunities are sparse; and the lack of career pathways for these workers prevents them from assuming new roles with more responsibility, elevated titles, and higher compensation.
- Many direct care workers function without a clear understanding about their job requirements, responsibilities, workflows, or reporting structures. This leads to inefficiencies and misunderstandings at best and contributes to mistakes and accidents.
- Employers often don’t have or communicate plans regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion. This can harm marginalized workers who are dealing with the effects of discrimination at work and in life.
- Direct care workers are rarely included in consumer care teams, and other health and social care staff rarely receive training or encouragement to value direct care workers’ contributions and experiences.
The study authors conclude, “The poor quality of direct care jobs has become acutely obvious in 2020, as COVID-19 has ravaged long-term care settings—with direct care workers on the frontlines of the crisis, struggling to remain in their jobs and provide quality care without sufficient training, support, protection, or compensation.