Specialty Caregiver Education-Woman In WheelchairThe pandemic made one thing abundantly clear: home care plays a vital role in healthcare. More services are moving to the home-based setting causing a significant rise in client acuity levels and an increased need for specialized caregiver education and training. 

Every year, Home Care Pulse publishes the top 10 complaints of caregivers. “I don’t feel confident to handle the client” is one that ranks consistently high. It is worrisome that so many caregivers don’t feel they can handle what’s required in the plan of care. We know that when caregivers lack confidence in their abilities to do a good job, they quit the case rather than ask for help.

The lack of skills (leading to a lack of confidence) is not entirely surprising. Most agencies offer less than 10 hours of training per year including training at the initial onboarding. Most agencies offer 8-10 hours per year to meet the recertification requirements for their certified workers. However, high-performing agencies, those with revenues over $5 million per year, offer on average 24 hours of training per year.

Although it takes more than a good training program to become a top-performing home care agency, this is intriguing. It might be time you look at caregiver training as a strategic advantage. Creating a specialty training program based on the specific needs of your clients can help your agency stand out in the crowded home care market. This also helps with caregiver recruitment, retention, and client satisfaction! It’s an all-around winner, but it requires work.

Is your agency prepared to meet this challenge?

What Is Specialty Caregiver Education and Training?

Dementia basic and advanced training is the bedrock of specialty training in senior care. Teepa Snow, one of the rockstars in the dementia care space, advocates for agencies and caregivers to be experts in dementia, so they are prepared to serve families and seniors, most of whom suffer from some degree of cognitive impairment. 

Communication with patients with declining cognitive abilities is often key to success. When a client – whose family requested care – doesn’t want a stranger in their home, having a team of caregivers and nurses who know how to approach those situations is important. It has to be learned through training.

Other useful (and popular) specialty care training includes palliative care, end-of-life support, and how to work with patients with neurological diseases like Parkinson’s. 

Specialty Caregiver Education and  Training Benefits Caregiver Recruitment 

Offering specialty care training is the sign of a professional agency, one that invests in its workforce.

Include the mention that your agency offers “advanced training” in your job ads. It’s proven to attract experienced caregivers who are looking for their next client. Employee referrals also benefit from knowing that your agency provides training that other agencies in your community don’t provide. 

Specialty Caregiver Education  Benefits Caregiver Retention

I have advocated for years (in fact since 2016 as this article shows!) that caregiver training is one of the keys to caregiver retention. A solid caregiver training program is a rare gem in home care with benefits galore.

However, specialty care training is not a quick fix. For one thing, Home Care Pulse data shows that specialty training doesn’t impact turnover in the first 30 days of employment. Its positive impact starts to bear fruit after 90 days. It takes a few weeks for a caregiver to realize that the training offered is really worth it. Agencies that have instituted a robust specialty care curriculum have seen amazing results. “90% of caregivers who go through the training program stay for a year” states one agency owner.

How to Get Started

The first step is to understand what the client needs in your market. You probably have this data through the current plans of care. What are the common health conditions your assessments uncover? Do you get more inquiries about certain conditions?

Determine what is the most impactful specialties or the specialty that is underserved in your territory. Once you have determined the need for specialty care, you can design the program by doing it in-house with your Nurse. Most agencies partner with a training vendor such as Relias, CareAcademy, or Home Care Pulse. 

Purchasing off-the-shelf training solutions (sometimes referred to as LMS for “Learning Management Systems”) has many advantages. It’s cost-effective with an online, on-demand delivery. It also provides your agency with the most up-to-date knowledge and doesn’t distract the Nurse from patient care and caregiver supervision.

However, online training is not enough. The most effective format to deliver specialty training is a hybrid approach. Combining online learning and in-person application offers the efficiencies of self-paced online training with hands-on application in the client’s home. 

Introduce the online training platform as part of the Caregiver Orientation. Provide a demo of what’s available on the platform and how to access it. Encourage caregivers to use it to refresh their knowledge, and as support when they say “I don’t feel confident to handle a client.”

Consider whether specialty care and associated caregiver training should be part of your business strategy.