Despite the complexity of their roles, home health nurses and aides continue to be woefully underpaid.
Home health nurses and aides prove their tenacity and dedication to their profession every day, yet they continue to struggle against obstacles like low wages, lack of benefits, and numerous regulations on how to do their jobs.
To raise awareness for the tireless work of these individuals, BAYADA Home Health Care founded Hearts for Home Care. Operating as a separate entity from BAYADA Home Health, Hearts for Home Care is working to educate politicians, media, and decision-makers on the challenges home health and home care workers face.
"We're raising awareness to the legislators so that they know what we're doing and what's happening in the home care sector, trying to get the nurses the pay that they deserve, and making sure that it’s fair and equitable," Karen Fitton, director of BAYADA Home Health, told HealthLeaders.
In addition to her role as director, Fitton also is a senior ambassador for the Hearts for Home Care Ambassador Program.
Beginning her career as a nurse, Fitton has worked in different areas of healthcare including the elderly, before joining BAYADA Home Health. Her clinical experience, she said, has made her a stronger director and advocate because she has the perspective of a home health/home care worker.
"The majority of [BAYADA Home Health's] directors are business majors, not nurses, so I feel like I have an advantage over them," Fitton said. "Of course, we have to run a business, but to me, it's more about making sure that our families are well taken care of, they're safe at home, and we have good, qualified nurses."
Pam Soni serves as BAYADA Home Health's director of managed care for adults, with years of experience as an LPN. After discovering a passion for advocacy, she began working with Hearts for Home Care as one of its leading recruiters and ambassadors.
Like Fitton, Soni believes that having nurses in administrative roles within an organization enables them to better serve their patients.
"Each one of them has individual needs that need to be met," she said. "And I get emotional about it because people don't know how to navigate the healthcare continuum and they underestimate the value of keeping folks in their home, safe, in the environment that they love, surrounded by the people that they love."
Another aspect of being a home health/home care worker, Soni noted, is that sometimes they're the only support their patient or client has.
"The staff that goes into the homes, they're walking into a stranger's home providing intimate care, medically complex care," she added.
"I feel the world doesn't understand how talented our field staff is on being great diagnosticians, and just the pressure that's put on them, that somebody's life is in their hands with no backup. There is no doctor down the hall. There's no call bell."
Recently, Soni attended a lobby day at the Pennsylvania legislature where she spoke for Hearts for Home Care about the challenges of home health and home care workers. Some are policy-related, like LPNs not being qualified to sign death certificates uring the public health emergency or nurses and aides getting ticketed or having their cars towed for parking in a certain area while attending to a patient.
With the ongoing workforce shortage, wages are a big challenge for agencies trying to recruit workers, because low reimbursement rates keep them from offering competitive wages. BAYADA Home Health has been looking at more creative ways to recruit staff, including building brand awareness among students and new graduates, Fitton said.
"We know this is a long game," Fitton said. "We have been going to nursing schools, making presentations, [visiting] classrooms, going to job fairs and career fairs trying to not only increase our brand awareness … [but] educating the students that are coming out and showing them that this is a viable career."
“The staff that goes into the homes, they're walking into a stranger's home providing intimate care, medically complex care.”
Pam Soni, director of managed care, adults, BAYADA Home Health
Jasmyne Ray is the contributing editor for revenue cycle at HealthLeaders.
Hearts for Home Care is advocating for home health workers and home caregivers by educating the public on the challenges they face.
Fitton and Soni's past experience in the field as clinicians helps them in their administrative roles because they know what workers are dealing with on a daily basis.
In addition to their advocacy efforts, Hearts for Home Care is also working to attract new and potential talent by building brand awareness among students and new graduates.