Teamwork, Dedication Drive Long-Term Care

Working in a long-term care facility requires teamwork, dedication and drive. These are qualities Shanae Wilbert, administrator at The Woodlands Healthcare Center, learned on the basketball courts playing in high school, and refined in college with Texas A&M University.

Wilbert, formerly Shanae Ford, was a member of the ‘93-‘94 Lady Aggies basketball team that went to the NCAA Sweet 16.

But wins and losses aren't the true measure of success, Wilbert said. "The real stat is the impact you make on others' lives and how you measure your growth in all areas of what you do," she said. "I am passionate about long-term care and love our residents and the camaraderie our team at Genesis Healthcare has at working to improve the lives of others daily."

Managing long-term care staff has become an increasingly difficult challenge for nursing home administrators like Wilbert, thanks in large part to the fact that Texas' Medicaid reimbursement rate doesn't even cover the cost of taking care of Medicaid residents.

This summer, the Texas Health Care Association's Scot Kibbe testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee that dedicated caregivers are fleeing the low-pay, high-stress jobs in Texas nursing homes at record rates, many to take less stressful jobs at places like fast food restaurants such as Wendy's or McDonald's.

"Registered nurses in Texas nursing homes have a 94 percent annual turnover rate," said Kibbe, director of government relations for the nonprofit that advocates for better nursing home care in Texas. "These are the folks who take care of our parents or grandparents, or even most of us, eventually."

Kibbe warned lawmakers of a brewing crisis as nursing homes provide more medically extensive care to a more challenging patient mix while constantly having to find and train new staff. According to a 2012 study by the Center for American Progress, the total costs of turnover for a single position is about 21 percent of an employee's annual salary.

"Working at a nursing home isn't for everyone, but those who choose this vocation are some of the most caring people you will ever meet," Kibbe said. "They are dedicated to making sure vulnerable and elderly Texans live with dignity, but we are not making it easy for them."