How to Create a Caregiver Mentor Program to Boost Caregiver Retention

Home Care Office Staff Hiring Tips

A caregiver mentoring program gives support to your new caregivers and a career ladder to your experienced caregivers. 

When you hire a new caregiver, it’s important to start working to retain them from Day 1.

According to the 2018 Home Care Benchmarking Study, over 57% of caregivers who leave an agency each year do so in their first 90 days of employment.

Why do so many caregivers leave during this time? There are many reasons, including finding other opportunities, caregiver burnout, and not being serious about the job in the first place. Some of these issues tie back to recruitment and the need to identify the most committed candidates during the hiring process.

However, many of the caregivers who leave in the first 90 days do so because of a lack of support from their agency.

According to thousands of caregiver interviews we’ve conducted over the last 8 months, two of the top complaints caregivers have with their agencies is a lack of communication and a lack of training. One powerful solution to help address both of these problems is to implement a caregiver mentor program for your new caregivers.

A caregiver mentor program is simple—it’s a program in which experienced caregivers are assigned to look after new caregivers and are available to help with their training, answer questions, and provide any other support that they need.

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Benefits of a Caregiver Mentor Program

Investing time and energy in a caregiver mentor program can bring powerful benefits, including:

  • Reducing turnover among new caregivers by providing increased support

  • Reducing turnover among experienced caregivers by providing them with opportunities for advancement

  • Increasing the quality of care you offer your clients, as your caregivers will be better-trained and stay longer

  • Helping you attract better caregivers who are motivated by developing as a caregiver, rather than just taking any job to get by

  • Contributing to a stronger feeling of unity in your agency

  • Retaining caregivers at all levels of experience longer by demonstrating that you are prioritizing their success

While mentor programs can take many forms depending on the needs of your agency, we’ll talk about one common and effective way to structure. There are three levels of the program: new caregivers, caregiver mentors, and mentor leads. Typically, a new caregiver should stay in a caregiver mentor program for their first 60-90 days of employment.

The Role of a Caregiver Mentor: Facilitating Success

A caregiver mentor should be an experienced caregiver who can be trusted to train other caregivers, has strong communication skills, and is reliable. Generally, they should have at least 6 months of experience as with your agency. Their duties include:

  • Assisting in the training of 3-5 new caregivers at a time

  • Keeping regular communication with new caregivers

  • Reporting on the progress of new caregivers to their mentor lead

Typically, caregiver mentors still spent most of their time caring for their own clients. However, some industry experts, including our own founder and CEO Aaron Marcum, have advocated for the idea of full-time caregiver mentors to provide even greater support to caregivers. With the turnover crisis becoming worse every year, agencies should explore the possibility of using full-time caregiver mentors. However, this is dependent on the needs and capabilities of your own agency.

The Role of a Mentor Lead: Mentoring the Mentors

A mentor lead may be experienced caregiver who have been promoted from caregivers, or even members of your office staff or management team. The mentor leads should be exceptional at training and inspiring others, as they have a powerful impact on the culture and morale of your agency. Their duties include:

  • Overseeing 3-5 caregiver mentors and providing them with support

  • Providing regular training to caregiver mentors on how to effectively mentor caregivers, how to listen, ways to provide more thorough training, and other general leadership skills

  • Assisting caregiver mentors with any issues that arise with new caregivers

  • Alerting management to any major problems or issues that arise with new caregivers

What Does a Mentoring Program Look Like?

Here are the basic steps:

1. Introduction. A new caregiver meets their caregiver mentor at orientation.

2. Initial training. The caregiver mentor accompanies the new caregiver to the first 2 hours or so of their first appointment, in order to introduce them to the client and get them started off on the right foot. They may also take a role in other aspects of the new caregiver’s training.

3. Weekly calls between mentors and new caregivers. In addition to meeting at regular trainings or other events, the caregiver mentor calls the new caregiver for a few minutes at a scheduled time every week. They talk about how things are going, answer any questions, and listen to any ideas or suggestions that the new caregiver has on how to provide better care to clients.

4. Regular calls between caregiver mentors and mentor leads. Caregiver mentors talk one-on-one with a mentor lead periodically to discuss the needs of their caregivers.

5. Ongoing training for mentors. The mentor leads provide ongoing leadership training to groups of caregiver mentors to help them more effectively help their caregivers.

6. Graduation. After 60-90 days (depending on what you find works best), your new caregivers graduate from a mentoring program. In a few months, they can become mentors themselves.

Best Practices in Implementing a Caregiver Mentor Program

It’s important to remember that because the purpose of a caregiver mentor program is to address the specific needs of your caregivers, you should feel free to experiment and alter your program based on your own agency’s circumstances. However, these are some other best practices that will usually help a caregiver mentor program deliver the best possible results:

Provide a wage increase and/or other compensation to caregiver mentors and mentor leads. While wages add up, a well-implemented program will likely save you thousands of dollars on turnover costs annually. You may consider using an incentive-based pay system that pays based on the number of caregivers in their stewardship who graduate from the program.

Provide a physical token of achievement to caregivers upon graduation, as well as to their mentors and mentor leads. This may be a certificate, a pin, or something else creative and unique to your agency. You may also include gift cards or other perks. Everyone involved in the process should be rewarded and recognized when a caregiver graduates from their mentoring program.

Remember the role of a caregiver mentor program and recognize what it is not. A caregiver mentor program, while a powerful tool, should not be viewed as a substitute to supervisory visits, as your primary training program, or as a way to compensate for a poor hire. If it’s taking away resources from core processes such as recruitment or training, you should rethink how you’re implementing your program.

Getting Your Team on Board

Your caregiver mentor program will be successful and deliver powerful benefits to your home care agency as your agency commits fully to it. To accomplish this, your company needs to be on board at all levels. Getting buy-in from your employees, including office staff and caregivers, will increase their enthusiasm and participation. Demonstrate to them how the program will help them personally in their roles and how it will take your agency to the next level by prioritizing the success of your caregivers.

What other questions do you have about caregiver mentor programs? Let us know in the comments below!

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2018-10-12T16:00:27+00:00Sep 26, 2018|Categories: Articles, Caregiver Turnover|

About the Author:

Before coming to Home Care Pulse, Connor worked as an organizational training director specializing in creating repeatable processes to help organizations grow. He is passionate about organizational dynamics, improving messages and operations, exploring wilderness, and eating any dish made with pepper jack cheese and green chili peppers. On any given Saturday, you can find him hiking through a national park with his wife.

2 Comments

  1. Gie Garces October 16, 2018 at 11:36 pm - Reply

    Hi Thank you for your great site, its a perfect timing for me. I just have a question. Does this apply to a an independent contractor? or 1099 caregivers?
    Thank you so much

    Best regards,

    Gie

    • Connor Kunz October 17, 2018 at 10:21 am - Reply

      Hi Gie! While there might be a way to set up a similar program between private caregivers, this program is designed for caregivers within an agency. It requires a strong central organization overseeing the caregivers to make it work and so would be very difficult to make happen among independent contractors. Does this answer your question?

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