COVID-19 Vaccines and the Workplace

In the long-term care industry, forward-thinking CEOs have also become Health Care Heroes for their efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. From wireless nurse call systems to innovative Smart Badges, technological advances have helped to combat the virus. With the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccinations now underway, long-term care residents and employees can finally envision the day when isolation and loneliness in nursing homes will be a distant memory. 

But as the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines continues across America, many workers still have unanswered questions about the vaccination process. One of the biggest questions among working Americans is, “Can workplaces require a COVID-19 vaccine?” This question is particularly relevant among healthcare employees and essential workers whose jobs require direct contact with other people. Below is a detailed response to this question. We also discuss some steps businesses can take to foster a safe work environment for employees.

Are There Times When Workplaces Can Require a COVID-19 Vaccine?

It’s possible, but only under very specific circumstances. Some workplaces may be justified in requiring vaccinations if employees who have not been vaccinated present a threat to their colleagues. The most compelling cases for a vaccine mandate are those that involve a high likelihood that non-vaccinated employees would put colleagues, customers, and visitors at risk:

“Employers may require vaccines before employees return to the worksite if the failure to be vaccinated constitutes a direct threat to other employees in the workplace because the virus is rampant and easily transmitted in the workplace,” – Robin Samuel, Attorney, Baker McKenzie 

A few long-term care providers have already taken the stance of requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, however some state governments are looking to ban employee vaccination requirements altogether.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that workers check with their employers to learn about specific state or local laws that may require them to be vaccinated. You can start by talking to your manager or Human Resource Director. Many employers distribute or post details in highly visible locations such as break room bulletin boards.

What Do Professional Healthcare Organizations Say About the Vaccine?

The American Hospital Association (AHA), American Medical Association (AMA), and American Nurses Association (ANA) recently penned a letter to healthcare workers. In their letter, they do not directly answer the question, “Can workplaces require a COVID-19 vaccine?” However, they urge healthcare workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine and discuss their experience with other people:

“As frontline caregivers, our essential role in protecting the health and wellbeing of our communities goes beyond the care we provide. As a valued and trusted voice, our example is perhaps the strongest health resource we have. Our hope is simple; we urge you to get the COVID-19 vaccine and share your experience with others.” – American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, and American Nurses Association

Notably, the letter uses the word “hope” multiple times with regard to vaccination. They acknowledge that the vaccination “does not signal an immediate end to our nation’s suffering.” But the vaccine is viewed as necessary in order to overcome the virus and potentially bring an end to loneliness in nursing homes and other COVID-19-related challenges.

Could the COVID-19 Vaccine Become Mandatory in the Future?

“Once we know more about the vaccine, it’s possible that it will become mandatory. We need to know much more about how long the vaccine protects people and what may happen over time.” – Penn Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

As more people are successfully vaccinated, questions about the future may arise. For instance, it’s natural to wonder, “Can workplaces require a COVID-19 vaccine in the future?” or, “Can workplaces require a COVID-19 vaccine for frontline workers who are pregnant?

The federal government does not currently require that individuals receive the vaccine. But this stance could change in the future as more information becomes available about the vaccine and its long-term effects. The best thing to do is follow state, local, and federal news regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. By remaining informed, you can prepare yourself and your employees for the future.

What Can Businesses Do to Emphasize Safety as the Vaccine Is Rolled Out?

The process includes giving clear responses to concerns like, “Can workplaces require a COVID-19 vaccine?” while highlighting the many positive aspects of the vaccines. Here are some simple steps businesses can take to create a safer work environment while vaccinations are underway:

  • Step One: Educate workers. Make sure all employees know when they are eligible to receive the vaccine and provide information on how they can sign up. Distribute details in writing and verbally.
  • Step Two: Encourage vaccination. Share the letter distributed by the AHA, AMA, and ANA to motivate employees to do their part.
  • Step Three: Remain positive. Address loneliness in nursing homes by focusing on a healthier future as more people are vaccinated.

By following these simple steps, you can make sure your employees stay educated and informed about the COVID-19 vaccine. You can also outline its impact on the workplace. Most importantly, you can put your business on the path to a safer, brighter future.

Women of Distinction

Today is International Women’s Day, which is a day set aside each year to commemorate the achievements of women. First observed in 1909 in New York City, it’s now a global holiday for celebrating the many contributions of women to society, culture, politics and business.

How are you going to celebrate? For those in the Senior Living industry, we recommend registering for the McKnight’s Women of Distinction celebration.

McKnight’s Women of Distinction

This 2-day virtual celebration is organized by McKnight’s Long-Term Care News and McKnight’s Senior Living. It recognizes and honors an amazing slate of women who inspire others and have a powerful effect on the lives of the individuals they serve in the senior living industry.

This year’s event, held virtually on May 18 and 19, celebrates women in three categories.

    • The Hall of Honor is for senior-level professionals in the C-suite or at a level equivalent to vice president or higher and have made a significant impact on their organization or the long-term care industry. This year, 19 women are being inducted into the Hall of Honor.
    • Veteran VIPs are women who have worked in senior living or skilled nursing for more than 15 years, and whose hard work and unrelenting dedication has helped make life better for countless residents. This year, the first for this category, 15 women are being recognized as Veteran VIPs.
    • Rising Stars are women under age 40 or with fewer than 15 years of experience in the senior living or skilled nursing fields. These 17 women have demonstrated an exceptional commitment at the community or corporate level.

In addition to celebrating and being inspired by this year’s honorees, attendees can learn from, engage with, and listen to the industry’s A-list leaders, network with peers, and get insights into issues important to women leaders working in long-term care today. 

Learn more about McKnight’s Women of Distinction 2021.

Caregiver of the Year Award

RCare has its own slate of amazing women to recognize. Over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing with you the inspiring stories of the three amazing women who were selected for this year’s RCare Caregiver of the Year award. We’re excited to tell you more about these three women making a difference in senior care.

Myron Kowal and Jeffrey Knauss

Myron Kowal, CEO and Founder of RCare Inc., has announced his retirement. Webster native Jeffrey Knauss will acquire the business and serve as CEO of the company upon Kowal’s retirement. Myron Kowal and Richard Moore, the original architects of the RCube, will be continuing with RCare in an advisory capacity.

“Light precedes every transition. Whether at the end of a tunnel, through a crack in the door or the flash of an
idea, it is always there, heralding a new beginning.” – Theresa Tsalaky

Self-Advocacy

Self-advocacy. The ability to speak up for yourself. The power to ask for the care you need. What started as just a word transformed into a passionate idea, a dream of what eldercare should be. It’s this dream for the future of eldercare that grew into the thriving business of today, RCare. For RCare founder Myron Kowal, it all started when a bed-ridden family member couldn’t successfully advocate for help when he needed it. Kowal knew he had to step in. Acquiring basic parts from RadioShack, he got to work on building his very first nurse call system.

Answering the Call

That defining experience and the persisting idea of self-advocacy ignited a glowing passion in Kowal. He poured himself into improving and advancing nurse call systems for the eldercare community and the caregivers within it. In an industry that spends countless dollars trying to figure out what residents need, Kowal has always believed the solution is simple: residents need to be able to advocate for themselves and to know that when they call for help, it is going to arrive. Kowal believes nurse call to be an extension of the elder, their voice when they’re in need. He and his team have worked tirelessly to create call systems that improve the lives of elders while supporting care partners in providing better care.

Since its founding in 2006, RCare has been installed in nearly 1,400 facilities, has expanded available features, and has developed award-winning mobile capabilities. RCare has been honored by the Rochester Business Journal as a “Rochester Top 100” company and Kowal was personally recognized as a COVID-19 Hero for RCare’s work during the pandemic. Their systems help ensure more than 100,000 calls per day are answered. It’s safe to say that Myron Kowal and RCare have contributed to helping countless elders find their voice and advocate for themselves.

Passing on the Torch

Reflecting on what he has built, Kowal said he is proud and humbled. “Passing the RCare torch is bittersweet. It was absolutely critical to find a successor who would continue to grow RCare, and who would never relent in the mission to be the voice of the elder. I’m grateful that Jeffrey Knauss answered the call. I know he’ll continue to provide the innovation and the vision that will allow caregivers to provide better care.”

Knauss, a Rochester Business Journal 40 Under 40 winner, spent 27 years refining his skills in all aspects of the value chain from marketing to engineering to R&D. An expert in business strategy development, product development, and sales channel management, he has the experience and skills necessary to continue to scale a flourishing RCare business.

Different Leader, Same Mission

When considering his next move, Knauss said, “Two things about RCare stood out: the location in the community where I grew up, and the impassioned focus on improving the lives of not just elders, but also those who care for them.” An avid volunteer, Knauss served eight years as Vice Chairman of the Board at the Mary M. Gooley Hemophilia Center in Rochester, NY. “It was this experience that sparked a deep admiration and gratitude for the support that nurses provide not just medically, but emotionally for their patients. It was the nurses that made their mission possible,” Knauss said. The symmetry between this experience and the RCare mission was undeniable.

Knauss said that he looks forward to continuing to drive the RCare mission, creating products that help caregivers seamlessly do what they do best. He is also excited to build a legacy of his own at RCare. “I look forward to generating continued growth in this local community, which is my hometown.” The original architects of the RCube, Myron Kowal and Richard Moore, will be remaining with RCare in an advisory capacity.

Benefits of Showing Employee Appreciation

Long-term care communities rely on their employees to keep things running, set the tone of the community, and show compassionate care to their residents. Those employees are the bedrock of the community. They’re the reason why residents get the care they need and have a positive experience while living within the community. Employee Appreciation Day is an opportunity to give back to those employees and show them just how valuable they are. 

The Benefits of Showing Employee Appreciation in Long-Term Care Communities

Employee recognition and appreciation matter in any workplace. Showing employee appreciation in long-term care communities may be even more valuable. Consider these four benefits:

1. Employee appreciation increases morale.

After a hard year, many employees are struggling to keep up morale in general. Showing appreciation for employees in long-term care communities can help improve their moods and morale, giving them the tools they need to keep working hard in the future. 

2. Employee appreciation is directly tied to company culture. 

Employees who receive the appreciation they deserve are more likely to give their best and show a positive attitude. These elements are critical when it comes to caring for individuals in a long-term care community. Employees who know they are appreciated are more likely to go above and beyond, show residents a high standard of care, and interact well with other staff members. These are all key elements of company culture. 

3. Appreciated employees are engaged employees. 

Around 85% of employees across industries report not being engaged at work. For long-term care facility employees, that can mean disengagement with residents or lack of attention to the details of care, which can substantially decrease the treatment those individuals receive in the facility. Appreciation in the workplace, however, can raise employee engagement and get your employees back to providing the standard of care your residents deserve. 

4. Employee appreciation in long-term care communities can decrease turnover. 

Employees in long-term care facilities have a median turnover rate of around 44%. But showing your employees a high degree of appreciation can increase the likelihood that they will stay with your organization, which can help improve the standard of patient care. 

5 Ways to Show Employee Appreciation in Long-Term Care Communities

Ways to Show Employee Appreciation

This past year saw many long-term care facilities struggling with budget challenges. That can make it more difficult than usual to shower your employees with the appreciation they deserve. However, there are several strategies you can use to improve your employee appreciation efforts that may not cost as much as you think. Take a look at some of these suggestions and how you can make them work for your facility. 

1. Invite residents to join you in saying thank you.

Your residents and their families are highly appreciative of your facility’s employees, especially in a year where family visits have been restricted. Your employees have, in many cases, had a lot more contact with those residents than their family members have had. Invite your residents to join you in saying thank you. Some ideas are:

  • Have residents make cards for specific employees. You can assign employees to residents at random or encourage residents to create cards for their favorite employees — or both! Encourage your residents to include specific reasons why they appreciate the employees who work with them every day.
  • Ask residents to help put together a banner (or several banners, depending on the size of your facility) that expresses their appreciation for employees in the organization. Encourage them to sign their names and write positive affirmations and thanks to the workers. 
  • Have residents participate in an event that expresses why they appreciate all the employees in the facility. Encourage them to share the things they appreciate most about your employees, including the actions they take. Give them the chance to give speeches or to otherwise share their appreciation verbally. 

2. Don’t forget the support staff that makes your daily routine possible.

When you’re showing appreciation for employees throughout your long-term care facility, make sure you take notice of the employees that often remain behind the scenes. This list includes the cooks, janitorial staff, maintenance personnel, and more. All of your employees deserve appreciation, especially after this year! So highlight the contributions of those employees with signs, banners, and emails that detail the efforts they put forth every day to make your community a happier one for your residents.

3. Give the gift of time to show employee appreciation in long-term care communities.

If you’re on a tight budget, then you may be able to offer your employees a gift that costs little: the gift of time. Without understaffing your facility to accommodate this idea, consider:

  • Offering your employees additional vacation time.
  • Providing them with longer breaks throughout the course of those employee appreciation days.
  • Offering them some work hours when they can relax. 

That gift of time can help employees relax in ways that they may not usually have the chance to over the course of a normal workday. 

4. Provide specific, written recognition to employees.

Let employees know that they are seen — not just by the residents in your long-term care facility but also by the management team. Send out emails or offer a written note that specifically thanks them for what they do. Try to take note of what sets specific employees apart. 

For example, is there an employee who always seems to be positive and upbeat, even in the midst of trying times or difficult shifts? What about an employee who always seems to see what’s needed most and takes care of it without anyone noticing? Show that you have seen these attributes in your employees and offer them specific appreciation and recognition for them. 

5. Offer small rewards. 

Bring in doughnuts, give out a small candy treat, or offer employees gourmet coffee treats for a day. While these things do have a monetary cost, they may not substantially impact your budget. But they can certainly go a long way toward letting your employees know that you appreciate their efforts. Make sure you combine these efforts with direct thanks or recognition for employees. 

Employee Appreciation Day is an excellent opportunity to show your long-term care facility employees how much you have appreciated them and their efforts, not just this year but in all the weeks and months before it. Help them see how valuable they are by providing them with recognition and thanks on this important day.