Caring for the Caregivers
Business professor Carrie Leana and psychiatrist Jules Rosen study a paradox: 90 percent of direct care workers say they believe their work makes the world better, yet turnover in the caregiving industry is high.
Through their research at Pitt’s Center for Health and Care Work (CHCW), a collaboration of the School of Medicine and the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, Leana and Rosen found that management’s unrealistic expectations of workers breed employee dissatisfaction. They also learned that quality-of-life considerations, rather than money, most often motivate professional caregivers to leave their jobs, and that caregivers who remain in their jobs tend to be those who form personal relationships with patients and have a sense of vocation about their work.
"What we found," says Leana, "is that people with more stable work histories in this profession were people who, on their own, imbued their jobs with more meaning."
By informing national discourse, CHCW hopes to increase resources and support for professional caregivers, ranging from personal attendants to physicians.
Caregiving doesn’t focus on the bottom line, as exemplified by providers working long hours for low wages. Pitt graduate student Emily Stiehl wondered if long hours affect quality of care. With CHCW director Leana as her advisor, Stiehl studies worker stability and performance. “What I’m hoping,” Stiehl says, “is that the research I’m doing will not only benefit this set of workers and help bring more meaning to their work but will also help the organization to be more profitable.”