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How to Improve Employee Morale in Nursing Homes

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Staff turnover is often high in a nursing home environment. Low wages, long shifts and poor communication and management are contributing factors for the regular exodus of nursing home employees. While there may be little you can do to increase wages, there are a number of other opportunities to engage employees and keep them happy. Here are several tips to keep staff enthusiastically working at your facility.

Ask for staff input when planning training meetings and events. Create a short survey to get employee input on their concerns and what aspects of training would be most beneficial to them. Don't assume that you know exactly what employees may be having difficulty with; it is worth the effort to get their thoughts and input so that you can plan training accordingly. Staff members who feel as though their opinions were sought after will be more enthusiastic about training.

Offer career development opportunities. Develop a structure to assist employees who are looking to advance within the organization. Create a training program for laundry and dietary staff to become CNAs, for CNAs to become LPNs and LPNs to become RNs. Work with local colleges or medical training schools to create career development programs, if possible. Employees are less likely to leave if they feel they have an opportunity for advancement.

Plan outings for staff. Nursing home staff work very hard, and it is an environment that can take a significant toll on employees, physically and emotionally. Re-energize staff with outings, barbecues, amusement park day trips, picnics and holiday parties. When choosing an outing, consider whether staff will be allowed to bring children and spouses along. Remember to keep the cost per person affordable, as most staff members earn a modest income.

Appoint someone to check in with employees regularly. If you do not have the time, appoint a staff member as the person who checks in with staff to make sure all is well, at home and at work. Many employees have personal problems that affect their jobs; child care issues, car problems, sick family members, relationship issues and other life circumstances that can negatively affect their employment. A staff person would be appointed to help employees cope with such situations and make referrals to therapists, child care centers, counselors and other community resources that could possibly assist.

Be open and honest with staff; keep an ear open for the "rumor mill." Know what is being discussed at your nursing home, whether it is a rumor about layoffs, employee gossiping, someone who has become ill or the like. If there are stories, true or untrue about layoffs, closings or new hiring, address them as soon as you can. Employees will appreciate management that is upfront and honest.


Listen to employees and be responsive to their needs. Honor staff with recognitions, such as rewards for not using sick time or for constantly showing willingness to fill in on other shifts. Encourage staff to develop and maintain excellent relationships with nursing home residents.


Don't ignore maintenance crew, dietary or housekeeping staff; they are often the first ones to leave. Try to keep work hours to eight a day rather than requiring a lot of overtime.