This article is sponsored by ShiftKey. In this Voices interview, Senior Housing News sits down with Brandon Tappan, Chief Revenue Officer, ShiftKey, to share his perspective on the use of independent health care professionals as part of the solution to the current workforce crisis in senior living. He discusses the key challenges, opportunities and misconceptions based on his experience as a former operator. He also breaks down the sentiment of operators in today’s senior housing landscape, and he explains how they can benefit from effectively tapping into the growing independent workforce.
Senior Housing News: What career experiences do you most draw from in your role today?
Brandon Tappan: I’ve been in the long-term care business for over 17 years, running nursing homes and senior housing assets. Many of us at ShiftKey have been in that industry for a long time. We’ve spent nights worrying about meeting the growing demands of the workforce. That’s the challenge I wanted to tackle.
Joining ShiftKey, I felt I could make a bigger difference because ShiftKey’s approach was different. It isn’t a staffing company — it is a user-friendly, data-driven company that truly works alongside operators like I used to be. I hadn’t seen anything like it in my career. What really caught my attention was ShiftKey’s vision to make it easier for professionals to enter the workforce on their own terms.
One of the biggest hurdles I faced as an operator in recent years was workforce recruitment. Every operator today feels the pinch. Operators have increasing demands, and matching them with qualified professionals is a massive challenge. I also had to operate during the peak of the COVID-19 crisis. That’s when ShiftKey’s platform really showed its worth. If it wasn’t for ShiftKey connecting available health care professionals with facilities in need during that tough time, I genuinely believe more lives would’ve been lost. Seeing the powerful capabilities of the ShiftKey platform is what drew me to come to work here.
Talk about your time as a former operator and the greatest gaps you experienced in the workforce.
There’s a widening gap between the number of adults needing long-term care and the available licensed professionals to provide that care. It’s important to grasp the demographic challenges facing this industry. For instance, by 2034, there will be more seniors than children in the U.S. for the first time. We’ll need 3.5 million more long-term care workers by 2030. Yet, in recent years, over 90,000 nursing school applicants were turned away due to various constraints. This is just one example where the system is failing to recognize the crisis that is lurking. We need to be focused on pulling more workers into the industry and embrace creative ways to get there.
While the pandemic intensified this issue, the problem started before and continues post-pandemic. It’s not just about the pandemic — it’s a genuine workforce access challenge. Over 200,000 nursing home workers left the industry during the pandemic and haven’t been quick to return. This has led to many long-term care facilities limiting admissions due to staff shortages, causing a domino effect, such as increased hospital stays- which we know impacts patient outcomes.
Questions like “Who will look after my elderly parents?” aren’t just theoretical anymore. This impacts every facility, affecting the entire care spectrum and society. These challenges aren’t easily or quickly addressed.
This highlights the importance of platforms like ShiftKey, which helps bring already licensed professionals back into the workforce. From my experience, many individuals want to work but require flexibility, which traditional employment models can’t always offer. Before, we’d turn away potential employees due to rigid schedules. Tools like ShiftKey fill those schedule gaps, offering facilities the flexibility they previously didn’t have.
What is the current workforce landscape for senior living, including the greatest challenges and opportunities for growth?
There is a significant potential for expansion in our sector. The population aged 65 and above, especially those over 85, is expected to double in the coming years. However, the real hurdle is ensuring a qualified workforce to meet this demand. If our existing models were effective, we wouldn’t be confronting the current health care workforce dilemma.
Beyond this, there are myriad challenges — from ever-changing regulations, legislative shifts, budget limitations, advancements like AI, concerns about potential recessions, possible future pandemics, worker fatigue, and mental health struggles. The industry is seeking genuine, lasting solutions, not just temporary fixes or interim ‘agencies’ that don’t offer the tools for long-term progress.
The real opportunity lies in true innovation that addresses these ongoing issues. We believe that genuine innovation springs from empowering facilities to make strategic, data-driven workforce decisions both immediately and in the future. We also aim to provide independent licensed professionals with insights about available opportunities.
Our mission is about ethically offering choices to both sides of this marketplace, ensuring that we can deliver high-quality care to cater to this escalating demand.
As a former operator, what’s your perspective on the use of independent health care professionals to address workforce shortages?
I’ve always been receptive to the idea of independent health care professionals. These individuals, as the name suggests, opt for independence in their professional pursuits, a decision they’re fully equipped to make based on their personal and familial considerations. They’re professionals in the health care domain, implying they’ve devoted time and resources to their education. Platforms like ShiftKey ensure that facilities can tap into these professionals, all while having access to their credentials.
With burnout rates skyrocketing and increasing retirement of the baby boomer generation, it’s concerning to note that the median age of RNs remains in the 50s. This paints a challenging picture as the incoming workforce isn’t sizeable enough to replace those retiring from these physically and emotionally demanding roles. It’s imperative to lower the hurdles for health care professionals, enabling them to offer their invaluable expertise in the market. Concerns and skepticism propagated by tech-enabled staffing agencies lack solid ground and might hinder progressive solutions like ours, which aim to address the looming health care workforce crisis.
One perspective I truly value is that ShiftKey doesn’t compete with community employers like traditional staffing agencies might. Instead, ShiftKey’s platform offers a novel, broader range of resources to health care establishments, resources that would be otherwise unavailable. From my experience as an operator, it’s clear that leveraging every potential workforce resource is essential to meet our care standards and achieve occupancy objectives.
How should facility leaders approach the use of independent health care professionals today?
Stay positive about the potential within your team’s culture, but don’t disregard the challenges our nation faces. If we desire change, our actions need to reflect that sentiment. Adopting data-driven approaches that resonate with emerging work trends and worker priorities can shift your facility from merely surviving to thriving.
In my experience as an operator, ShiftKey helped me proactively support my team, maintain our optimal hiring practices and capitalize on emerging business opportunities. The potential revenue loss is too significant to decline admissions, and we’re aware of the ripple effects when senior living facilities make such decisions. In the same vein, the repercussions of burnout and heightened staff turnover are too substantial to overlook the assistance available from skilled independent professionals ready and eager to help you achieve your goals.
It’s crucial to understand that these independent professionals have agency in their choices. When they opt to work at your facility, it’s a conscious decision. Their motivation and enthusiasm are palpable. Engaging with them should be mutualistic, with benefits for both parties. It’s natural for facility leaders to be skeptical of innovative methods. Our innate apprehension towards change might lead to caution, which is prudent. However, rather than being swayed by sensational headlines, seek dialogue with trusted partners known for their results and integrity.
For instance, at ShiftKey, our legal team is a priority. Regan Parker, a vital member of our executive ensemble, is the nation’s foremost authority on worker classification law. She’s dedicated to pioneering alternative workforce models that empower workers and foster a more resilient and inclusive economic landscape.
How can facilities shift their workforce strategies to stabilize and re-enter growth mode to meet increasing demand for long-term care?
Emphasizing data in decision-making is key. It’s vital to set aside personal biases or past experiences and confront the harsh realities head-on, using available tools to guide data-informed decisions. The need for our services remains robust, and fulfilling this demand is not only essential for senior living, but also for the broader economy. By basing choices on data, there’s no need to juggle between catering to community needs and ensuring workforce stability — both can be achieved simultaneously.
Collaborating with multiple staffing agencies that lacked technology caused my facilities to exhaust resources in a seemingly endless loop of crises, intensive hiring and high turnover, spiraling back to agency dependency, which subsequently strained our finances. This exhausting cycle only halted when the concept of proactively including independent health care professionals in our workforce strategy crystallized.
What I deeply desired as an operator was a unified solution. While I had access to business intelligence tools and a tech-enabled scheduling system, they weren’t integrated. Recognizing this gap, ShiftKey and OnShift partnered to offer a game-changing integrated solution. Named SAMI, which stands for Schedule Automation Marketplace Integration, this tool consolidates data and talent insights into a cohesive view, ensuring total transparency. The outcomes have been remarkable, with an 83% drop in unfilled shifts, a 7% rise in resident occupancy rates, and significant administrative time savings per community, enabling more focus on team and patient care.
In a couple of words, finish this sentence: “In 2023, the senior living industry has been defined by…”
…an unprecedented acceptance of technology solutions that help meet a rapidly growing demand for senior living services and workforce needs.
Editor’s Note: This article has been edited for length and clarity.
ShiftKey enables providers to empower caregivers with real-time access to thousands of open PRN shifts so they can build their ideal schedules. To learn more about how ShiftKey can help providers enable caregivers to choose from shifts based on their current or preferred location and bid their desired rate, visit https://www.shiftkey.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].