This article is sponsored by KARE. In this Voices interview, Senior Housing News sits down with KARE co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Bridget Kaselak to learn about what KARE has learned from talking directly to caregivers about their experiences in the field. Kaselak also shares the benefits that the KARE platform brings to operators, as well as the company’s view on caregivers, who they say are Honest, Empathetic, Reliable and Open-Minded — AKA “HERO.” Lastly, Bridget explains the company’s blunt, bold marketing campaign: “Staffing Agencies Suck.”
Senior Housing News: Bridget, what career experiences do you most draw from in your role today with KARE?
Bridget Kaselak: I’ve been in senior care for almost about 10 years, but before that, I was lucky to be in a lot of different industries, from a chocolate factory to an auto auction. And one thing I always noticed is that your frontline employees, the folks in the nitty gritty of the day-to-day, make an organization what it is.
In the chocolate factory, I was on the business-marketing side, and what we were doing in our offices certainly mattered. But when we went downstairs, it was the people making the chocolate, or the folks on the assembly line putting the cakes together, who were truly delivering the final product that our customers saw. Those were the people who really mattered: the ones whose work made customers want to buy the product again. They are the ones who put that smile on a customer’s face.
All of this really shakes out two different ways for me at KARE. We are very missional about wanting to improve the lives of our Heroes: the frontline workers, caregivers and nurses in our buildings. What we also knew was that in order to do this, we needed to build a strong team and empower and inspire them to help us carry out that mission. For me, it always comes down to that frontline worker who is making or breaking a company and delivering that company’s vision and values.
Tell us about KARE. What is its mission, makeup and process and most importantly, what gap did you see in the industry that motivated you to co-found it in 2019?
Kaselak: KARE is a staffing solution. We are very much not a staffing agency. We are technically a digital labor marketplace. A very rough analogy we reference is, we are like Uber for caregivers. When my partner Charles Turner and I founded KARE, we knew that our industry had a major staffing problem that was only getting worse. People were providing staffing to the space, but not in a way that was beneficial to the operators, and certainly not beneficial to the caregiver.
Let’s create a better vision of what it means to be a caregiver or nurse in our building. Let’s create better financial freedom and flexibility for them and see if we can use that freedom and flexibility to attract more people. Instead of constantly fishing in the same small pond of caregivers and nurses, let’s make this a place where people want to come, instead of working in an acute-care setting or maybe even in schools.
As a labor marketplace, we’ve got two ends of our platform. On one end, we have all of our Heroes. They are our pre-vetted, pre-qualified, fully onboarded caregivers. We did all the heavy lifting there. They interact with an app, in an app store.
On the other end of the platform are the operators and providers who need to call on these folks. They can very quickly and easily set up a free account. We don’t have any contracts with them, there’s no cost to set up an account, there’s no cost to post a shift. They can use our community-specific app with no hassle. For them, KARE is essentially a free tool to access our platform of pre-vetted qualified Heroes.
Charles Turner is a former operator and still an owner. He knew the challenges to getting staff in the building. We built KARE to eliminate any of those barriers to entry. That means a quick setup with no subscription fees.
How can staffing solutions that provide outside labor contribute to continuity of care?
Kaselak: That’s a great question because typically, they can’t, for two reasons. One, in a staffing agency, the worker is employed by the agency, meaning they’re aligned with the agency. They haven’t decided on their own what community they want to work with. Two, if a community wants to bring someone in full time, it’s very costly to do so, so they typically don’t. That creates a constant stream of outside labor. You’re really never able to build continuity of care.
Our vision with KARE was not only to solve the on-demand, immediate labor needs, but also to help communities find a long-term solution for recruiting their own full-time employees so that when they brought in outside care, that person was really treated like part of the team and was incentivized and motivated to act like part of the team.
We’ve seen KARE say, “Staffing Agencies Suck.” Since KARE ostensibly has the same goal as staffing agencies, which is to help seniors get the care that they need, why does KARE take such an outspoken position against staffing agencies?
Kaselak: This campaign has been a really interesting journey for us. When KARE first started, one of our biggest challenges was getting people to understand that we were not a traditional staffing agency. In early conversations with operators, we found we would tend to get immediately dismissed because people assumed we were a staffing agency and they would very quickly say, “Well, we don’t work with staffing agencies. Staffing agencies suck.” The first thing we would say is, we agree.
So the saying was actually inspired by providers. While you’re right that, yes, a staffing agency’s goal absolutely is to help get seniors the care they need, it’s really not in a way that’s convenient or cost-effective for operators. We’ve all seen the news about price gouging. How is that helping seniors get the care they need, if operators can’t really afford it or they’re getting that help at the expense of something else?
With KARE, we let our operators set their own pay rates. We don’t have any contracts with them. Tying this back up to the mission of helping the frontline worker, we are giving caregivers more freedom and flexibility that they don’t typically get with an agency.
How can the industry use the KARE platform to understand the wants and needs of caregivers and nurses?
Kaselak: This is one we’re really excited about. The answer is data. On our platform, we host tens of thousands of frontline workers across 30-plus states and growing, working in different levels of care with different types of health care licenses. KARE has a few different access points to data. One, we can survey our Heroes on many topics — and we actually do. When COVID hit, we saw many reports and articles on burnout and motivation, fears of the frontline workers, but we noticed a lot of those were coming from the perspective of the operator, the employer. We thought, let’s actually ask them what they’re feeling and what they’re experiencing, and we did.
Our system holds a lot of data. Things like pay rates across different markets, when and where Heroes like to work and why, what’s important to them. One of the things we do on our system, every time a HERO works a shift, our system requires the HERO and the community to rate each other. This goes back to the Uber analogy, similar to an Uber ride. We have tons of data on subcategories on things like, what does the HERO like about working in a building? Is it welcoming? Is it fully staffed? We can see what types of things truly impact their experience when they work a shift at a community.
With the labor crisis improving, what’s next for KARE, let’s call it over the next year?
Kaselak: I mentioned we’ve got tens of thousands of Heroes on the platform. We’re in thousands of buildings, but really, that’s simply just scratching the surface on the geography and the clients and the Heroes. We need to grow there. We’ve also been approached by other health care industries. We’re exploring those options as well. We also have folks in other countries who have asked us to expand there, beyond U.S. borders. We’re definitely exploring growth both geographically and then in other healthcare settings as well.
Finish this sentence: “In senior housing, 2022 will be the year of…”?
Kaselak: I think 2022 is going to be the year of rebuilding. COVID certainly sidetracked all of us big time. We know that. COVID is still very much around, but I think we’re finally at a time where we’re able to get back on track. We’ve got new technologies and new innovations, some that were waiting for us when we got sidetracked by COVID, but even more have happened since. I think we’re at a time where our industry can finally put the foot back on the gas pedal, focus on rebranding and repositioning our product for a senior housing industry. I think we’re able to make it a place where our seniors not only want to live, but where a younger generation wants to work.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
KARE is a platform that empowers post-acute caregivers to earn extra income and manage their own flexible schedules, while helping senior care communities decrease their operating costs by reducing high overtime wages and eliminating costly staffing agencies. To learn more about what KARE can do for your communities, visit doyoukare.com.
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact [email protected].