The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated a problem that was already brewing in the medical field. With the aging Baby Boomer generation, increasing demand for medical services, home care and Hospice and limited supply was expected to come to a head soon.
Hospitals and clinics across the country were already struggling to hire qualified healthcare personnel before COVID-19. Studies had predicted significant staffing shortages of in-home health aides, nurses and medical lab technicians by 2025 and a scarcity of qualified physicians by 2030.
“We’re not prepared for what’s coming. Our concern is that the demand is going to outstrip the supply unless we see some dynamic changes occur.”– William Dombi, president of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice
The pandemic has made the problem more acute, leaving many medical facilities and nursing homes short-staffed despite the falling numbers of coronavirus cases. Why? Industry experts say personnel feel overworked and exhausted at this point; fatigue and burnout are palpable. Low pay, long hours, and grueling shifts were already pain points for healthcare workers. And the additional stress of the pandemic, fear, increased risk, and caregiving needs at home as schools went online, lead to many staff retiring early or leaving their job altogether.
How Can Healthcare Organizations Work Around Staffing Shortages?
Now, as the need for healthcare is greater than ever, demand is only expected to increase, healthcare organizations need to address labor shortages in their continuity strategy.
1. Utilize the Resources Available
This is an important time for healthcare management to be aware of the resources that are available to help address staffing shortages, according to the CDC. Local healthcare coalitions, federal, state, and local public health partners may provide assistance when hiring additional healthcare personnel, recruiting retired doctors, or finding students and volunteers as needed.
Related article: How to Prevent Burnout Among Healthcare Staff.
2. Plan for Flexible Staffing
The problem of labor shortages in healthcare isn’t new, but the pandemic has accelerated the need for hospitals and nursing homes to be proactive. The first step is to really look at how things are organized and reassess your staffing needs
Your team should identify the gaps and look creatively at how the current workforce may be reorganized to cover some of those needs. Efficient staffing means understanding the needs of your facility and deploying the minimum number of healthcare personnel needed to provide a safe work environment and good patient care.
For example, relying on underutilized, lower-level staff to handle simpler tasks in order to free up senior nurses and PAs for more complicated cases is a better way to optimize team members’ skill sets. Another option is to focus on upskilling current staff and new entries. Internal training programs and mentorships can help pass on valuable experience from seasoned employees before they retire to help cover needs. Cross-training can also ensure that employees are flexible enough to fill critical gaps as they occur.
3. Lean Into Technology
As we move forward, successful healthcare networks are going to be those that are willing to implement innovative workforce practices and become early adopters of new tools. Technology in healthcare is designed to increase efficiency, accuracy, and employee satisfaction. And this is precisely in line with current pressures on hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes to improve efficiency and patient outcomes.
Utilizing technology helps decrease costs, increase efficiency, and free up valuable staff so that they can focus their time and effort on patient care. Plus, government incentives are offered to qualifying facilities – with the proper technology training and IT infrastructure in place – that adopt electronic medical record systems and other digital options.
Technologies which are being adopted in the healthcare field in record numbers, include:
- Telemedicine platforms,
- Remote home monitoring,
- Secure cloud tools for collecting and sharing data, and
- EMR integrations.
Over the past year, more healthcare systems began using telehealth services in response to the public health emergency than ever before. Now, we expect HIPAA regulations to be expanded in order to support the still growing adoption of virtual and remote health platforms. Along with wider acceptance of credentialing by proxy, this tech boom is set to ease workforce shortages. It expands the geography of the talent pool, so that specialists can reach more patients, in less time, across state boarders.
Additionally, better integration development will make it easier for healthcare facilities to outsource services. Streamlined EMR integrations will facilitate fast and secure sharing of patient data, when needed, for tasks like insurance billing, prescription services, teletriage, telehealth call center answering services and after-hours answering for medical practices. This type of secure, integrated technology enables healthcare providers to take advantage of the time and cost savings associated with outsourcing work.
Related article: How Answering Services Can Fix Your Patients’ #1 Complaint.
4. Boost the Employee Retention Rate
One main cause of shortages is the massive turnover seen in the healthcare industry. In 2020, the healthcare industry experienced a nearly 22% turnover rate across all jobs, which represents the second worst rate by industry.
Employee retention is an important issue to address. Proactive management are implementing reward systems for performance, better platforms for communication, more thoughtful shift- planning and clearer scheduling. Strategies should aim to retain existing personnel, attracting recent graduates, and encouraging skilled staff to stay on even as they near retirement.
5. Get Students Involved
Hospitals and healthcare networks should be collaborating with universities to facilitate the transition of students into the workforce. If students are meeting up-to-date certification requirements, learning about the latest work models, and getting familiar with the technology actually used in medical care, they will be much better equipped to start working upon graduation.
Streamlining this transition will help ease staffing shortages by better preparing medical professionals and encouraging more students to enter the field.
Related article: How Medical Answering Services Save Your Practice Money.
How PatientCalls Can Augment Your Staff
Talk with PatientCalls about how we can help your team avoid staffing challenges; contact us using the “get a quote” form above.