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Employee Retention and the Effects on Occupancy in Long Term Care

In the month of September, it was reported by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) that the occupancy in skilled nursing facilities dropped to 77% (average skilled nursing occupancy was just around 84% prior to the Covid-19 pandemic).

The newest decline in occupancy started at the beginning of the pandemic and has fluctuated since. This has been attributed to a workforce shortage across the healthcare industry. Within the first two months, it was estimated that 1.5 million health care jobs were lost. Although some have returned, staffing shortages are still considered to be the biggest crisis in healthcare (it is projected by the American Hospital Association to reach a shortage of 1.1 million by the end of 2022).

With a combination of low morale, staff burnout, an inequitable workforce distribution and overall fatigue, healthcare leaders must be innovative in how they’re retaining employees during this time.

Brad Underwood, Owner & CEO at Voyage Long Term Care, has not been short of ideas on how to retain crucial staff. When asked if this was a new approach due to pandemic stress, Underwood stated, “No, we have always placed our people above everything else. We meet them where they are, and we take care of one another here.” It is believed that Underwood’s leadership style and approach to “taking great care of great people” has put Voyage ahead of the curve in retaining staff through the recent crisis.

Despite the decline across the country, Voyage Long Term Care buildings have increased their census by an average of 28% and continue to maintain an occupancy of close to 90% between their buildings.

Retention of employees has been a contributor factor to their success. When speaking with Mike Rodriguez, Human Resource Director at Voyage, he felt it was important to “build trust” with all staff so that they feel loyal to the company. Through recent changes in the onboarding process and streamlining the hiring and training of new staff, Rodriguez feels this will continue to improve the retention of staff.

In addition to the changes being made from an HR standpoint, the company launched a retention campaign to include a “Cruising Through Summer” contest. By checking off certain goals, employees were then entered in for a chance to win a cruise to a destination of their choice. Mary Ayers, Laundry Director and Jesse Wilson, CNA, and Transportation Director, both employed at Oak Hills Care Center, were the well-deserved winners of this award.

Certain metrics were put into place for employees to be entered into the drawing for the mentioned cruise. This is also happening on a federal level with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), whom will be implementing a retention metric in addition to current metrics that evaluate the overall effectives of a nursing facility.

Other initiatives at Voyage include staff events such as a back-to-school drive where employees were provided school supplies for their children for the upcoming school year, a staff softball tournament and their annual VIP Awards Show. This show is an annual event awarding employees who exhibit and embody Voyage’s core values of Integrity, Leadership, Ministry, Family and Innovation.

For more information on employment with Voyage Long Term Care, please visit us at:


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