There are more than 18 million health care workers in the United States; 80% of them are women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While women make up the vast majority of home health care workers, they are a minority in the C-Suite. Only 40% of the industry’s key decision-makers are female.

Homecare is a tough space to succeed in, and while org charts may not reflect it, this industry is loaded with strong, determined women doing incredibly meaningful work — they simply do not get the recognition they deserve!

Here at HHAeXchange, we would like to take one small step towards changing that. ‘Extraordinary Women in Homecare’ is a series of feature articles designed to celebrate women who bring strength, passion, and creativity to their roles in the home care industry.

We recently spoke with CJ Weaber, Vice President of Strategy & Business Development at Honor Health Network. Based in Harrisburg, PA, Honor Health Network is a growing, dynamic company that operates some of the most respected home health care agencies from New York to Washington, DC. In this article, CJ shares what fascinates her about homecare, her network’s secrets to compliance, and what she believes to be the biggest misconception about our industry.

What brought you to the homecare industry?

Homecare found me! I had been working in Philadelphia in the events and music industry and had just moved back to my hometown, which didn’t really have opportunities in that space. Someone I knew from college reached out and asked if I’d be interested in working for this healthcare company, as they were looking for someone with marketing experience. I sat down with them to talk about the role, and it totally fascinated me.

I find homecare to be such an interesting area because it’s a service that everyone will need at some point, but no one really knows about it until they need it. I was completely enamored with the thought of being able to create something that I will use some day, especially because I don’t have children. I’ve been here six years now, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I love building things. I love building a team and seeing the team succeed. If they’re successful, I’m successful, and it means that we’re helping so many more people.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

This is the easiest question to answer! The hardest part about my job is the lack of staffing. Unfortunately, in today’s climate, it has become increasingly difficult to consistently have adequate staffing to meet the demand.

COVID-19 definitely magnified the staffing issue; however the caregiver crisis has been a problem for so many years, well before the pandemic. The caregiving field is expected to grow 33% between 2020 and 2030! It is one of the fastest growing workforces. We all knew that the crisis was happening, but COVID-19 pushed it to the forefront and forced us to address it immediately.

As a woman in homecare, what qualities should one possess in order to climb up the ladder?

You have to be very open-minded. I love listening to people’s ideas. We’re a solution-based company. My motto is, don’t come to me with a problem unless you have an idea for a solution. It doesn’t have to be the right solution, but just bring your ideas to the table. Listening more than talking is very important when it comes to developing a team and building trust.

Next, you have to be communicative. I have weekly calls with all of our managers. Sometimes, we’ll just talk about things that aren’t even work-related, but I believe that because we work in a stressful environment, it’s important to have that line of communication to know that someone is there.

Last but not least, you must be ethical. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that compliance should always be a priority. Our company places stability over growth. Sometimes it takes a village to be compliant. If you’re compliant, you typically have quality, and then the growth comes naturally.

What are some of your agency’s practices for ensuring compliance?

The devil is in the details. It’s important for us to have processes in place that ensure quality control. We have a dedicated staff member who focuses on quality and compliance. We survey our caregivers and clients every month; 10% of our census gets surveyed. We also do random audits every month so we can ensure that if and when an auditor walks in, we’re audit-ready.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about homecare?

Initially, when I first started, I thought homecare was so expensive. A lot of people will say, “Oh, I can’t afford homecare,” but there are so many funding streams out there that are options for folks who can’t pay out of pocket.

One of the biggest priorities for our staff is educating ourselves on what is available to the community. Our marketing team are not marketers; they’re educators, and connectors to different resources.

It’s important to have those conversations with prospective clients that assume they can’t afford homecare. Educating them on what’s available is crucial because that is what these services are there for.

The amount of private pay that Angels on Call does is very small. We predominantly serve Medicaid, veterans, and grant or government-related streams.

On the tough days, what inspires you to keep going?

My overall goal is to build an agency that I’d want to use myself, or that I’d want to refer my loved ones to. Giving people the option of where they want to age and heal is such a blessing.

I work in a field that is stressful, but it is also the most rewarding, because the satisfaction someone has, being able to be in their home for their entire life, is a beautiful thing.

You might have tough stories, but then there will be a family that says you changed my mother’s life, or you changed my daughter’s life, or you kept them out of a nursing facility. That makes it all worth it.

Retention continues to be a challenge for the homecare industry. In your opinion, what can agencies do to improve their retention?

You have to look at retention in two ways – with the caregivers, and with the administrative team. On the caregiver side, customer service is critical. The caregivers are our clients just as much as the populations we serve are our clients.

The schedulers really hold the key to this and have one of the toughest jobs in the entire company. If the scheduler is not matching caregivers to clients appropriately, the caregiver is going to burn out pretty much immediately. It is critical that the skillsets match, the personalities match, and the preferences match. If there was more attention paid to scheduling, and overtime wasn’t forced, and people were more flexible with caregivers’ schedules and tried to meet them where they are, retention would be a lot of higher on the caregiver side.

From the office staff side, I think there needs to be more of an emphasis on work-life balance. Growth to us is very important, but it’s not all about the numbers. There are going to be situations where we can’t prevent a dip in our billables, things come up. Just being supportive and having them know that their team, their leadership, and their coworkers are all rowing in the same direction, I think is critically important.

What advice do you have for homecare providers looking to grow their agency?

To focus on three things: quality, compliance, and customer service. When I say customer service, I mean to your clients, to your caregivers, and to your internal team. If you have a strong internal team, and they’re happy, then the caregivers are typically happier, and the clients are typically happier. It’s a trickle-down effect. And if you have strong compliance and quality measures in place, everybody’s happier – it’s safer, and you’re providing better services.

What (if any) changes would you like to see made in the homecare industry?

Better funding. Especially in the last 18 months, we’ve finally come to be considered a part of the healthcare system. I used to say we were like the healthcare system’s ugly stepchild because homecare is non-medical. But our caregivers, who are quote-unquote “non-skilled,” kept so many people out of nursing homes and prevented a lot of deaths. We would love to get better funding so we can pass that on to the caregivers in the form of better training, better benefits, and better pay. Caregivers are the heroes of this pandemic and without the additional funds, we can’t run a sustainable business that people are going to be in for the long haul!

What’s one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you first started working in homecare?

Measure everything. Track everything. Get as much data as possible so you can make better decisions.

You can’t make good decisions if you don’t have data. Six years ago, when I started in this industry, homecare wasn’t considered a serious part of the healthcare system, so we didn’t have the sophisticated EMRs and all these platforms that tracked and trended. Now, they make software that allow you to track pretty much everything, so you can make better decisions and essentially run a more efficient and stronger agency.

What do you wish others knew about homecare?

Homecare is an amazing business, and the saddest thing to me is that the turnover has gotten so much higher. I wish people could understand the emotional toll the office teammates endure, because the participants become our family, and the caregivers become our family, too.

We’re not selling vacuum cleaners or iPhones; we are in a service industry that we will all probably need at some point. Therefore, being compassionate is incredibly important. We hope that we continue to be recognized as part of the healthcare system because I firmly believe that the homecare industry will change a lot of lives for the better.