We’re Home Care Pulse, a leading provider of experience management & surveys, caregiver/CNA training, and online reputation management.

We hired a rockstar scheduling coordinator to join our writing team. Here’s her take on how to take your scheduling to the next level.  

During my time as a scheduling coordinator, there were a lot of times when I was juggling call outs with new client inquiries. Despite the busy nature of scheduling, it was always a humbling experience to watch the magic of matchmaking in action.

One time, I had a client that needed a new caregiver; this client’s dementia-related needs were also growing. This made it difficult to coordinate a long-term match. I remembered a caregiver who was desperately needing more hours, and it turned out that this caregiver and client went to the same church. They clicked well and enjoyed frequent outings.  

I heard from the client’s family, and they were delighted with the care match, and it hammered in the importance of scheduling to retain.  

Scheduling is a big piece of the puzzle that helps to recruit and retain caregivers. Here’s how you can use scheduling as a magnet to attract caregivers and to hold on to them long-term. Many of these tips and tricks may sound common sense or obvious, but it’s easy to forget or let one of these aspects slip through the cracks. The way to ace scheduling isn’t in doing one particular thing. It’s better to put the fundamentals together.

#1: View your caregivers as priceless assets. 

Are caregivers the focal point of your business? Or does it feel more like a revolving door? 

How your schedulers view your caregivers can help to shift their scheduling philosophy as well. If you view your caregivers as replaceable commodities, you may become less sensitive to their needs, concerns, and complaints. Whereas if you view your caregivers as assets, you see them for their value, what they bring to the table, and the quality care they bring to your clients’ homes every day. This also helps your office staff and caregivers to establish and maintain your company culture.  

In exchange for their hard work, caregivers need a schedule that conforms to their needs and availability. Here are some best practices to improve recruitment and retention from a scheduling standpoint:

  • Schedule around the caregivers’ needs 

  • Be sensitive to your caregivers’ windows of availability 

  • Be open about your agency’s needs, about what shift times you have open and what cities you cover, etc… 

Be upfront about your agency’s needs, whether you have day shifts or night shifts, short shifts or longer shifts – let them know what you have. You might consider using targeted job postings to help applicants determine if their availability fits within your agency’s open shift times.  

It’s important to schedule clients according to their needs, but it’s equally important to keep caregivers’ needs in mind as well. For example, where possible you should offer longer shifts to caregivers that travel further to make the most of their commute.  

In addition, when caregivers let you know about their availability, listen to their scheduling concerns and how they play into their lives outside of work. Are they balancing nursing school and caregiving? Do they have personal or family commitments that you can schedule around? Do they have kids to manage when they are not scheduled for work?

#2: Use a variety of scheduling programs.

There are a variety of different ways that you can schedule. It’s important to consider various types of scheduling, and to make sure you’re using all available tools to make scheduling more efficient. Below are some of the ways that different home care agencies have used:

  • Forever schedules –New caregivers work consistent hours with the same clients on a recurring schedule.  

  •  Week by Week – New caregivers will be scheduled with a variety of clients on a week-to-week basis  

  • Weekend programs – New caregivers will work every weekend/every other weekend 

There are several different types of employment that can help your agency be nimble, and to care for a variety of clients.  

For example, if you have a new client that calls in needing care that day or the following day, having a PRN caregiver program can help to fill a last-minute need with a caregiver without exhausting those who would be in overtime with the additional request.  

Below are a couple examples of different employment programs that you can offer:

  • PRN – This means “pro re nata” and it means as needed. PRN caregivers pick up shifts when they are available. If you are utilizing PRN options, make sure to set expectations for them. Whether this is an hourly requirement or they need to work a certain number of shifts per month, make sure to set clear expectations before hiring, during employment, and throughout their time with your agency. 

  • On-call shifts – These are blocks of time that a caregiver commits to being available. They get paid a flat rate for being on call, and then additional pay if they are dispatched to a shift that opens last minute. On-call shifts are helpful shift offerings to help caregivers increase their paychecks and to help the agency in the event of last-minute shift requests or call-offs. It’s a benefit if you can secure CNA’s or trained staff members to be on-call to assist in a variety of client care situations. 

  • Traveling positions – These positions are ideal for caregivers that have a vehicle and like driving. These can be part-time or full-time positions where you stack shifts together for a variety of clients. Traveling caregivers are generally paid higher than non-traveling caregivers because they will be driving a lot. They also commit to working with a wide variety of clients. Travelers are very helpful in a variety of situations like same-day client inquiries that want to start, last-minute shift add-ons for existing clients, and for clients that prefer shorter visits as opposed to longer hours. 

  • Facility partnerships – These are also known as “floor care” or “shared care” programs. Instead of working one-on-one in client homes, these programs have caregivers work with a couple of residents at senior living facilities who need private duty care in addition to the services already provided to them. This is a great opportunity to add new clients to your home care agency and to establish referral partnerships with communities in your area. 

It’s important to know and consistently evaluate your caregivers for their evolving scheduling needs. For instance, some caregivers may want to be bumped up to full-time during the summer.  

In addition, others may be going through ongoing issues you may not know about that may affect their work ethic and availability. Some examples include ongoing car issues or balancing the commitments as a family caregiver. It’s important to touch base with caregivers about their hours, what their personal and professional goals are, how you can jumpstart their progress while emphasizing the importance of self-care.  

#3: Advertise flexible options in your job postings. 

Retention begins at recruitment. This should be at the forefront of your hiring process, from job postings to phone interviews. Each communication with candidates is a representation of your home care agency. The key to your scheduling is being consistent. The retention will follow. 

One way that you could facilitate recruitment is by keeping clients in mind when crafting job posts. A “who you are” section, could include traits that a client needs, to help fill open shifts, where your current roster is unable. In addition, it is best to be transparent in your job posting, including your company culture, job responsibilities, and including pay (or a range). 

Remember: when you’re crafting a job posting, you’re not only competing against other home care agencies for talent. You’re competing against senior living communities and even wider categories like retail stores and fast food chains. Make sure to sell caregivers on the perks of working for your home care agency in comparison to other home care agencies, and why they should pick home care over senior living communities.   

Highlight the benefits of one-on-one care. Don’t forget the satisfaction of developing meaningful relationships with clients, almost becoming a part of their families.  

According to the annual Home Care Benchmarking Study, 57% of turnover happens in the first 90 days. You can work to prevent this from happening through effective scheduling, and consistently communicating with caregivers. Make sure to talk about their scheduling needs and changes as well as personal needs.  

Also, you need scheduling software that is up to date, and improves efficiency. For example, Alayacare uses analytics to determine at-risk caregivers before they become a part of caregiver turnover. Common scheduling programs include AxisCareClearCare, MatrixCare and careswitch. See which one fits your agency’s needs the best, and utilize all of the features it has, to lessen the work on your staff.

#4: Use communication to foster meaningful relationships. 

We’ve talked about scheduling for the most part. Here are some best practices for communication in the context of scheduling:  

Communicate with caregivers about scheduling to make sure that you are meeting all of their professional goals and expectations and provide them with the tools to be successful.  

For example, they might be happy working with a client that requires a Hoyer lift, but would benefit from a Hoyer lift training refresher. By scheduling additional training, you are:

  • listening to the caregiver 

  • improving the care that they provide to your clients 

  • optimizing caregiver satisfaction which ties directly to caregiver retention 

Communicate with caregivers – not about scheduling to develop and maintain rapport. It’s difficult to create a schedule for caregivers when you don’t know a lot about them, such as their caregiving background, interests, education, personal goals, etc. This makes a scheduler’s job much easier when caregivers are able to develop trust and a working relationship with the person that makes their work schedule.  

For example, if you have a caregiver that is in nursing school with advanced caregiver training and a lot of client experience, your scheduler could put them with clients that require higher levels of care, such as hospice clients or those with COPD or diabetes.  

Listening to your caregivers’ interests inside and outside of scheduling can keep them engaged and consistent. It also makes them more willing to help out in a pinch.  

#5: Identify similarities between your agency’s needs and your caregivers’ needs.  

A common concern from home care agencies is the need for more caregivers. A common concern from caregivers is needing more hours. This parallel line conversation can be mitigated through scheduling changes; however, it can be caused by several factors including: 

  • Changes in caregiver availability  

  • Misaligned scheduling expectations 

  • Noticeable disparities in hours worked

When caregivers change their availability, depending on how much notice you get, it can be difficult to backfill their hours and put them on a new schedule that accommodates their needs.  

You may also notice big disparities in hours worked. Some caregivers work a few hours a week, while others may be in ongoing overtime. This is an opportunity for you to have a conversation with staff to see if they have any flexibility in their schedule, to lessen the range of hours worked. This will save your staff from burnout and turnover. Quick changes to their schedules today can help in terms of recruitment and retention. 

Consistent schedules, consistent caregivers 

Scheduling is the central line that connects your clients to your caregivers. The way that you schedule is the key to attracting and retaining your caregivers for the long run. As we said in the beginning, some of this information may sound obvious, but recruitment and retention are won or lost in your mastery of the fundamentals.  

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