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In modern-day long term care settings, staff members are required to work alongside different healthcare professionals such as physicians, nurses, therapists, social workers, dieticians, and CNAs. Only through collaboration can the team provide high-quality care that meets federal and state standards. 

Cultivating a strong team culture in a long term care facility takes time and effort. Facility staff must learn teamwork skills by developing a shared purpose. They must also feel a sense of responsibility and accountability towards resident care. 

How is teamwork achieved?

A capable long term care leader knows how to place people in the right roles. And this enables employees to flourish and work to their strengths, rather than attempting tasks that make them appear incompetent because they are not as accustomed to said tasks. So team building begins with understanding each member’s personality and work methods

Finding the right roles for team members

Some may thrive in one-on-one care cases with residents, while others may work well in organizing tasks. Yet others may be creative and capable of contributing innovative ideas. Leadership needs to assess each team member’s strengths and weaknesses so that they can delegate appropriate tasks to the team. 

A long term care team displaying strong team culture as they discuss resident care in the facility.
A strong team culture improves resident care, reduces medical errors, and motivates staff

Example #1: A staff member may be skilled in communication. If a troublesome resident refuses to take a shower, leadership should schedule staff members with better communication skills to encourage the resident to shower. If this method works, the leader should assign the staff members who found success in encouraging the troublesome resident to bathe rather than other team members. Doing so helps to improve efficiency and enables the facility to continue providing high-quality care for residents.  

Example #2: Some staff members may be natural-born leaders capable of bringing others together to achieve a particular organizational goal. A long-term care leader who recognizes this can ask this individual to lead team meetings, as it would allow them to shine and gain greater job satisfaction. 

Of course, leaders must also be wary of conflicting character traits. Sometimes, two employees—both of whom may be excellent individually and even with other team members—simply cannot work together. In such cases, it is advisable to re-schedule particular shifts, so these team members do not work together or work in different departments. 

By being more flexible and understanding the ins and outs of the team, leaders can prevent losing one or both of these competent employees and build camaraderie between the team, as they feel more appreciated and valued within the group.

The Importance of Building Team Culture in Healthcare Facilities

If a long term care team is not dedicated to building team culture, staff will become frustrated, leading to medical errors and adverse resident outcomes due to poor communication and inefficient care coordination between the team. A facility must, then, develop a strong team culture to improve resident outcomes, reduce medical errors, and increase workplace satisfaction. This, in turn, lowers staff burnout and improves staff retention, which is critical, especially during a staffing crisis. 

And this is backed by research. Studies show that a strong team culture directly impacts the quality of care and the safety of patients or residents. Building an effective team culture in healthcare providers encourages caregivers to collaborate and communicate while minimizing medical errors, especially in high-risk situations and during transitions of care.

Team building is also a good way to keep up with the new standards of care. There has been an evolution of healthcare standards along with growing patient expectations for better care. This puts modern healthcare providers in a position where they must focus on patient-centered care delivered through effective teamwork and a shared culture of values and principles. 

The benefits of a positive team culture in nursing homes include:

A long term care team participating in a team building activity to improve team culture.
 Building team culture reduces staff frustration, medical errors, and adverse resident outcomes.
  • Reducing Staff Turnover: When staff members work in a positive environment, they feel more work satisfaction and are less likely to leave their current positions. Good leaders will build a positive work environment that ensures their staff is given sufficient support and training to provide excellent patient care. Additionally, leadership that invests in staff’s professional development and empowers them to work to the highest standards will see them seek opportunities in other teams and departments and develop into the next generation of leaders. 
  • Empowering Staff: Leadership that prioritizes employee well-being often develops a team culture in which they acknowledge and appreciate staff’s differing opinions and contributions. This empowers staff to speak out when problems occur, knowing that they are supported regardless of the situation, building a positive workplace culture in which staff enjoy working and can thrive.
  • Improving Resilience: Long term care staff often have to manage challenging situations, whether dealing with difficult residents and their families, managing complex illnesses, or being understaffed. A strong team culture helps teams draw support from their colleagues, encouraging them to develop resilience to manage challenging or expected situations. Crucially, this allows them to bounce back in difficult situations and gain strength from their experiences. 
  • Enhancing Technology Training: The long term care industry is changing rapidly as more facilities adopt innovative long term care software. This means that facilities must adapt and introduce long term care EMR software training so their staff can maximize the capabilities of the nursing home software. Once they have grown comfortable using the nursing home EMR, they will be less hesitant to use it, especially when they recognize that their workflow processes are improved.

Contact us here if you would like to learn more about our long term care software and how it can improve your workflow efficiency. 

Team Building Strategies for Long-Term Care Facilities

In addition to supporting and empowering employees, leadership must set a good example by removing the bad apples that hinder the facility from building a thriving team culture and fostering a sense of belonging and mutual concern. Team building activities are a good idea for achieving these sentiments, and they can be as simple as rewarding employees for their hard work, making them feel heard and appreciated, handing out prizes, celebrating important occasions, and offering a path toward career advancement. Here are some effective  team building strategies that leaders can use in their own settings:

1.      The Rising Star Program

The Rising Star program is a weekly event where staff members are acknowledged for their hard work and diligence. 

The Process: A board is placed at the facility’s entrance or in a shared space in independent living communities. Family, residents, and friends of residents are informed about the board. They then pin or stick notes that acknowledge the work of a particular nurse or staff member. When the week comes to an end, nursing home staff meet and collect the messages that are posted to the board. 

Each note is viewed as a vote for the most appreciated staff member. The staff member who receives the most votes wins and becomes the rising star of the week. He or she is gifted a reward. While the Rising Star rewards do not have to be expensive, they are a show of appreciation and often come as a gift card to their local Walmart, Target, or Amazon.

A $50 gift card can go a long way, especially if it fosters a strong team culture that encourages and motivates the staff to provide better care. And long term care facilities can share their rising stars on social media, letting others in the locale learn of their staff’s achievements. 

The Benefits: The Rising Star encourages staff to interact with residents more in a long term care facility, and it increases the quality of care. Little things like dusting, taking residents out for a walk, and listening to residents’ stories are amplified, and other staff members will be more inclined to emphasize them. Residents, meanwhile, get to feel part of something big, as they are encouraged by staff to leave notes on the board about who they liked and why. 

The program also promotes healthy competition among all staff members while building a positive team culture. All staff is treated equally and have the same opportunities to become the week’s rising star.

Why it Works: Because leadership is not involved in the process, there is not any doubt about the validity of the results; a rising star is a person who has earned the respect of residents and their loved ones. So they are acknowledged by the team and leadership for their exceptional work and deserve the reward.

2.      Open-Door Policy

When managers talk about an open-door policy, they usually refer to an approach where staff can go to their office anytime and discuss any matters of concern. However, in long term care, this method must be adapted, because leaders who spend most of their time in the office do not develop meaningful relationships with their staff. Rather, such leaders are often seen as aloof and unavailable. 

The Process: To become more approachable, leaders in long term care must be more active on the floor and help with non-clinical tasks to lighten the workloads of their nurses and CNAs. Administrative tasks are the primary responsibility of leaders, but assisting with changing sheets helps, cleaning spillages, or carrying trays to residents will motivate the nursing home staff by building a team culture where everyone pitches in when they can.

The Benefits: Being visible on the floor makes a leader more approachable and involved in the team culture and on the floor’s activities It also makes it easier for staff to provide feedback and pitch different types of team culture ideas for improvement.

This openness to work alongside the staff and listening to their ideas makes staff feel more appreciated, fostering a stronger bond between the leadership and the team. Additionally, if the administrator witnesses a situation where a staff member is not following facility protocol, they can address the problem immediately.

Of course, being approachable does not mean bending over backward to be liked. As a leader receives feedback, they still need to consider the well-being of the nursing home and its residents before deciding to implement any changes. 

Why it Works: When a leader works alongside the staff on the floor, it shows that leadership is a part of the team, caring for residents and reassuring the staff that they have their support. This also makes it easier to hire recruits, as leaders can explain the responsibilities of the staff better because they have firsthand experience of what needs to be done. 

A leader visible on the floor with the staff can also quickly identify an incompetent employee and mitigate the damage they may do to staff morale and motivation. They can then take measures to talk to the person, set expectations, and ensure they perform to the same standard and quality as the rest of the team. 

If the leader decides that a particular individual is too stubborn and resistant to change, they should let the person go. Doing so will strengthen the team culture, reinforcing to the other employees the importance of teamwork and pulling their weight equally. 

3.      Updating Floor Staff After Meetings

In addition to embracing an open-door policy, nursing home leaders must keep the floor staff in the know. This ensures that all information is disseminated sufficiently for greater efficiency and direction while making the team feel more valued. 

The Process: When an administrator meets with the department heads in the morning for a stand-up meeting, they should also include the nurse supervisor, who will relay any important information from floor staff during shift change to other team members.  

The Benefit: Conveying the relevant elements of stand-up meetings in shift change meetings keeps the entire team updated on new concerns, changes in condition, special visits, and sudden plans. This clear and open communication from leadership to the floor staff facilitates coordination by allowing caregivers to contribute to a shared goal. It also reduces frustration, as floor staff is given the opportunity to offer input or share grievances. 

Why it Works: This arrangement allows leadership to plan independently while involving CNAs at a second stage. This fosters a team culture of equality, as all roles are clearly-defined, but no one is ignored in the process. This is crucial to providing exceptional care in such a busy and elaborately-coordinated industry like long term care. 

4.      Mentorship

A mentor is an experienced member of staff who is a natural leader. Mentors often demonstrate charisma, charm, and assertiveness while taking a less experienced staff member under their wing and teaching them the ways of the facility. 

When appointing a mentor, it is important to choose one with a work ethic that aligns with the facility. After all, one may be well-liked by other staff members but are lackadaisical in performing tasks. Therefore, leadership should evaluate employees’ performance carefully before recommending them as mentors. 

The Process:  When on the floor, leaders should keep an eye out for individuals with natural leadership abilities and create opportunities for these promising staff members to mentor others in the facility.  A nursing home administrator should also encourage senior nurses to advise nurses seeking certifications to advance in their careers.

The Benefits: Mentorship is beneficial when a facility has newly hired CNAs who need to learn the ropes. Should nurses be looking for ways to advance in their career, mentorship allows them to ask questions of those who have arrived at the positions they see themselves in the future. 

Why it Works: Role models are effective for a reason; seeing someone doing the job you aspire to is inspirational and makes the goal seem attainable. Many CNAs and nurses may feel overwhelmed at work, especially if there is no room for career advancement. A good mentor will help break that cycle of negativity and redirect their attention into a positive perspective. 

5.      Casual Friday

One way to change the pace of a workplace environment is by setting aside a day when workers can wear casual clothes to work. This lightens the mood in the facility and makes an ordinary Friday more fun and exciting. 

The Process: Administrators can announce that employees can wear whatever clothing they like on Fridays. 

The Benefits: Allowing nursing home staff to dress casually boosts morale and gives them a sense of freedom. 

Why it Works: As the week begins to wind down on a Friday and staff prepares for the weekend, a casual day is an excellent way to make work seem less like work. Long term care leaders want their team to be motivated and enthusiastic about their jobs, and a simple casual Friday is an easy way to foster these emotions. 

Of course, if an administrator implements a casual Friday policy, staff should still have their badges on them, and their scrubs should be close by in case of a medical emergency.

6.      Holiday Events

Nursing home teams experience challenges and joys together. In a way, they are a family. That is why, like families, it is only appropriate to share the most important times of the year together. 

The Process: Activities are organized following the theme or aesthetics of a particular holiday. For instance, a simple pumpkin decoration contest can be scheduled during Halloween, where winning staff members or residents get a bag of chocolates. 

The Benefits: As simple as it may seem, holidays are a great way to bring people together and foster relationships. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and Easter provide excellent opportunities for nursing homes to engage their residents in various in-house events and foster better relations between the team. Nursing home leaders who can effectively take advantage of holidays will have happier, more motivated, and more hard-working teams.

Why it Works: Everyone likes a break from work once in a while. And most will have emotional attachments to significant holidays, giving staff members something of value to share. These events are a great way of shifting perceptions about the workplace environment and about the individuals who work there, who can come to be seen as close friends or family. 

7. Raffles

A nurse wins a prize from a raffle, one of many proven team building strategies organized by the facility that encourages teamwork.
Effective team building strategies include handing out prizes and making staff feel heard.

Administrators can offer prizes to boost motivation.  Some examples include candies, cupcakes, and chocolates, which will still appeal to most. If the HR budget allows, raffles with prizes like televisions and holiday bonuses are great for generating excitement around your work environment.

The Process: Both prizes and raffles can be given out at holiday events to further the effectiveness of the previous strategy. Of course, it is advised that leaders ensure each team member receives something for more significant holidays like Christmas to avoid any hurt feelings. 

The Benefits: No matter how small, raffle prizes make the team feel valued. They create a sense of excitement and light competitiveness that can make an ordinary day more fun. 

Why it Works: As long as appropriate prizes are selected, team members appreciate receiving something free and feeling like winners.  

Embrace Team Culture To Motivate Staff

It cannot be stressed enough just how essential building a strong team culture is in healthcare. A strong team culture improves resident care, reduces medical errors, motivates staff, and enhances work satisfaction and retention. In addition, studies show that when facilities embrace team-building activities, it improves staff communication and work satisfaction. It also strengthens interpersonal relationships so the team can work collaboratively. 

During a staffing crisis, long term care facilities must understand that it is in the facility’s best interest to foster a robust team environment to motivate their staff. However, regardless of the team-building strategies management decides to adopt, leaders need to show genuine appreciation and acknowledge the significance of their staff. Only then will they be able to truly motivate and retain staff to build a strong team culture, where staff are supported, accepted, and empowered.

For more on recent trends in long term care, read our blog and subscribe to the LTC Heroes podcast.