Healthcare staff shortages have become a significant challenge in managing patient surges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Providers may become ill, school closures could inhibit staff from performing routine duties, and physical and emotional fatigue can cause burnout. These circumstances inevitably lead to workers facing a reduction in hours, workers leaving the healthcare field altogether, or workers taking contract positions, thus depleting the workforce and increasing stress on the remaining employees.
A recent survey of leaders from 100 large and private sector hospitals revealed that almost half of the respondents had to reduce inpatient capacity due to staff shortages.
Considerations for Retaining Staff
Practical considerations and resources for retaining healthcare staff can be categorized into four actions that are critical to workforce planning:
- Quantify needs
- Implement strategies to maximize the workforce
- Supplement the workforce
- Support the workforce
Quantify your organization’s needs by cadre, type, and skill level. Regularly re-assess as the situation evolves by monitoring staff to census acuity, how many staff are unavailable, how many additional staff are available from temporary staffing solutions and what departments or categories staff are affected.
This may lead to a multitude of questions, including:
- Are you able to reassign staff from within the organization? Assigning clinical providers to the most specialized care will help to enable the expansion of clinician-to-patient ratios.
- Can you provide the necessary training to support the return of clinical providers in administrative positions to clinical positions?
- Can you “up-train” staff with similar skill sets?
- Are you flexible in adjusting staff schedules during this time?
Considerations to supplementing and supporting your workforce can include:
- Hiring through staff agencies with an existing relationship and consider hiring furloughed or underutilized staff from other local providers who may have already reduced or discontinued non-essential procedures.
- Determine licensure waivers and flexibilities (reciprocity from another state) and expansions to scope of practice. Much of this can be done through local, state and federal resources.
- Can your organization provide child or elder care to alleviate caretaking requirements?
- Are you providing support programs and shift adjustments to mitigate fatigue and burnout?
- Have you considered compensation incentives? Does your employee wellness program meet the unique needs of your organization?
Staff and labor shortages are a significant problem for all industries in today’s workforce. The above questions and strategies may scratch the surface for addressing this problem in healthcare, but your broker can help you design a tailored plan for recruitment, retention and keeping your facility adequately staffed.
Talk to a trusted RCM&D advisor today with any questions on overcoming staff shortages and to develop a plan that’s right for your organization.