Cover: Understanding Multilevel Factors Related to Retention Among the Direct Care Workforce

Understanding Multilevel Factors Related to Retention Among the Direct Care Workforce

Incorporating Lessons Learned in Considering Innovative Interventions

Published in: Journal of Healthcare Management, Volume 69, Issue 1, pages 59-73, (January/February 2024). DOI: 10.1097/JHM-D-22-00235

Posted on May 28, 2024

by Julia Bandini, Julia Rollison, Jason Michel Etchegaray


This article explores how broad, contextual factors may be influential in the retention of direct care workers (DCWs; i.e., entry-level caregivers) who provide vital support to patients in healthcare settings. We reflect on lessons learned from an evaluation of a multisite intervention to improve retention among DCWs employed primarily in hospital settings at three health systems.


We evaluated a multitiered program for entry-level caregivers that included a risk assessment, a 4-day curriculum, and follow-up sessions, as well as workforce coaching at the three health systems. As part of our evaluation, we collected data on roughly 3,000 DCWs from the three health systems; the information included hiring date, any transfer date, and any termination date for each new DCW, as well as demographic information, position characteristics, and termination status and reasons for any termination. In addition, we collected information about organizational characteristics, including staffing and number of employees. We also conducted interviews with 56 DCWs and 21 staff members who implemented a retention program across each of the three health systems and remotely conducted virtual observations of the curriculum sessions at each system.

Principal Findings

Although the program we evaluated focused on individual-level factors that may affect retention, our findings revealed other broader, contextual challenges faced by DCWs that they said would have an impact on their willingness to stay in their positions. These challenges included (1) job-related factors including limited compensation, aspects of the job itself, and the inability to advance in one's position; (2) health system challenges including the mission, policies, staffing, and organizational culture; and (3) external factors including federal policies and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Practical Applications

As the direct care workforce continues to grow, interventions to improve retention should consider the interconnectedness of these multilevel factors rather than solely individual-level factors. In addition, further research is needed to rigorously evaluate any potential intervention and consider how such an approach can target DCWs in hospital-based settings who are most affected by the multilevel challenges identified. Finally, any intervention to improve retention must be also aligned to ensure equity, especially in this population of low-wage DCWs, many of whom are marginalized women and individuals of color.

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