Signature HealthCARE, which operates 111 communities in 10 states, offers skilled nursing, home health, assisted living, and in-home care. The company employs approximately 15,000 individuals and delivers care to 9,000 residents and patients.

A great deal has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early March. Staff focused on being innovative and learning, as regulations and approaches to fighting the virus frequently changed, and leaders focused on protecting the spirit and vitality of residents and staff members during the daily challenges of COVID.

“There’s no doubt our staff have been personally and professionally challenged,” says Tracy Jansen, chief human resources officer at Signature. “With the needed adjustments and standards that came with the pandemic, many of our standard protocols had to be re-evaluated and modified in order to adapt.”

Tracy JansenThese adaptations included an increased and evolving workload due to the demands of protecting residents from COVID-19, implementing mandated screening requirements, increased use of personal protective equipment, and taking the added responsibility of having no volunteers as communities had to close to nonessential workers.

Staff Evolve

Signature communities also had to close to residents’ family members. “That meant our staff, in addition to the responsibilities of medical care, had to take on a greater level of responsibility for the mental and psychosocial health and wellness of our residents,” says Jansen.

As restrictions were put into place, staff helped expand telehealth as a source of communication for families and residents and engaged them in new kinds of activities that were within the boundaries of infectious control guidelines.

In the meantime, while staff focused on these changes at work, they themselves faced challenges with their families at home due to the pandemic, and Signature stepped in to help.

Supporting Staff Heroes

As staff are supporting residents and patients, corporate leaders support staff in communities in need by setting up meal pantries with healthy snacks available to staff. Signature has provided more than 10,000 pounds of food to be distributed to various facilities for staff, plus free meals at work.

If a staff member tests positive, Signature has meals delivered to them at home during their quarantine. Additionally, in instances where COVID-19 has significantly affected a facility, Hero or COVID Pay is supplied. COVID Pay is supplemental pay for staff specifically treating COVID-positive patients, says Jansen. Hero Pay is also supplemental pay for being a hero during the pandemic and, while not directly working with COVID patients, working in a facility that has a significant number COVID patients.

Signature provides financial support programs as well. “Other support programs for staff include a loan program for employees that offers a low interest rate, access to child-care resources, flexible work scheduling for families, next-day payroll advances, and enrollment for child-care flexible spending accounts after the normal enrollment deadline,” says Jansen.

In an effort to provide funds as easily as possible, Signature restructured its Dependent Flex Care Program.

Traditionally, funds become available as employees contribute through payroll deduction. But for the past several months, the employee’s entire election will be front-loaded for immediate access for reimbursement up to $5,000, tax deferred.

Signature also partnered with TrueConnect, a voluntary employee-benefit program, to help assist staff with low-risk, easily accessible loans as a part of their benefits package. The service includes free financial counseling and planning for staff. Loans under $5,000 require no credit check and have a low annual percentage rate.
Signature employees also receive a PayActiv Benefit in which they can get up to a $500 advance loan that is paid back over two paychecks.

Spiritual Help

Spirituality plays a big role at Signature, and leaders help answer the call as requests come in. “In regard to the emotional and spiritual health of our staff, Signature offers a Spiritual Call Center where employees can seek counsel to find a listening ear, to connect in prayer, and find comfort and connect to community resources as the pandemic continues to increase difficulties, emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially,” says Jansen.

Signature’s corporate office has also adopted buildings to supply a steady flow of goody bags, cards, words of encouragement, and prayer, she says. The company-wide prayer chain also receives prayer requests and helps keep a continuous prayer chain going.

Every bit helps, as staff juggle the personal and professional challenges of COVID. “Our staff have to deal with family members who have lost employment and the related financial challenges that brings, they have children at home who are learning or preparing to return to school and have the need for child care, especially for some of our single-parent employees,” says Jansen.

“And this is not even mentioning the fact that, every day, they deal with the constant concern of bringing the virus home. But despite these challenges, our dedicated employees are relentless and have remained steadfast, vigilant, and committed. They are our true heroes.”​