Article #2 From the Frontlines of the Activity Profession: NAAP Membership Survey Results & Reflections
The pandemic applied significant strain to an already vulnerable senior living workforce, which has historically experienced high levels of turnover and burnout. This article is the second in a four-part series focusing on the Activity Professional, working on the front line. The NAAP survey, conducted in July 2022, included open and closed ended questions. Survey results and reflections begin to paint a larger, personal picture. The driving theme behind this series is to listen to one another, gain perspective, begin to process deep emotional experiences.
Uncertainty, ever changing regulations, task demands of staff floating between service areas created stress on everyone. 50% of respondents agreed conflict increased amongst the interdisciplinary team during the pandemic. People close to Activity Professionals worried about their physical and mental health at a rate of 63%. 74% of respondents experienced additional non-related Activity Service tasks were requested of them by their organization which impacted activity programs being offered.
The open-ended question, ‘What is the greatest loss experienced during the pandemic?’ yielded a wide range of responses which were broken down into three main themes: Organization/staffing/resources, residents, and impact on the individual/self.
Organization/Staffing/Resources responses included 56% decrease in Activity Staffing hours, staffing shortages, deceased budget, cut in pay and loss of volunteers.
Resident based comments focused on great losses in short period of time. Loss of visitation, loss of function, death of peers and staff and lingering grief.
Impact on self, expressed by one Activity Professional who wrote “I feel like a body not a person who matters at times due to lack of understanding from other departments.” Other comments included decreased confidence in decision making, a loss of “self” to the situation, decreased motivation and enthusiasm, great pain, and witnessing human suffering.
A report released in November 2021 by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), which represents more than 14,000 nursing homes, and assisted living communities across the country,” showed long term facilities are suffering from the worst labor crisis and job loss than any other health care sector. Nursing homes alone have seen its industry’s employment level drop by 14 percent or 221,000 jobs since the beginning of the pandemic.” NAAP asked the membership if and why they changed jobs revealed incidents of disrespect and belittling in the workplace. Poor executive level leadership was reported with decreased support yet increased responsibilities, working beyond the scope of Activity Services often with no compensation. 64% reported feelings of overwhelm, hopelessness was echoed by many and the shadow of grief that some could not take the memory of the COVID outbreak and needed to leave their job.
During the height of the pandemic in 2020, Michele L. Norris, a columnist for the Washington Post said “nursing homes deserve our prayers more than our condemnation. As with health-care workers at hospitals, the assistants, orderlies, food service workers and medical staff in nursing homes deserve our deepest thanks. They show up for work every day knowing that they are walking straight toward danger.” NAAP want you to know YOUR frontline work mattered then and matters now.
Please consider attending the NAAP Conference in Reno April 24 – 27,2023. Gathering, sharing, and growing with other Activity Professionals is an intensely rich and rewarding experience. Now, more than ever, we need each other to process and heal stressful experiences over these recent years. The NAAP Conference is offering a learning circle focused on the COVID experience being facilitated by Pam Hayle, ACC
Look for the next article is this series, Potential Solutions: Supporting the Clinical Demands of Activity Professionals and keep bringing your best practices to work every day and creating outstanding Activity Services on all levels of care for people everywhere.
Nancy Richards, NAAP Education Council
Four Part Series
Article #1 June 27, 2022
Disrupted: Mental Health Impact of COVID-19 on Activity Professionals in Senior Living
NAAP Mental Health Membership Survey July 11, 2022
Article #2 November 10, 2022
From the Frontlines of the Activity Profession: NAAP Membership Survey Results & Reflections
Potential Solutions: Supporting the Clinical Demands of Activity Professionals
Activity Services During the Pandemic: How One Discipline Emerged, Adapted and Cultivated Hope for Senior Communities