4 Tips for Handling Healthcare Staffing Shortages

Healthcare Staffing
Healthcare Staffing

Hospitals and healthcare practices today face the general expectation of running like a well-oiled machine. But healthcare providers can only do so with the right clinicians and employees in place — physicians, nurses, assistants, executives and administrators are the lubricant, keeping all of those intricate parts in smooth motion.

If this ever runs dry due to staffing shortages or scheduling issues, a plethora of problems can arise. Staff morale can decline, while patient outcomes and satisfaction levels can take a critical hit, too. Efficient staffing is absolutely integral to performance. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, key factors exacerbating the crises in healthcare staffing include:

  • Cost pressures
    Reduced reimbursements
    Stiff competition for doctors and nurses
    Baby Boomer-aged professionals retiring at an accelerated rate

These factors “all take a toll on healthcare organizations” in the form of lost skills, experience and intellectual capital.

Here are four tips for handling healthcare staffing shortages to minimize the negative effect on patient experience and employee turnover rates.

Utilize Electronic Scheduling Tools
The first step is making scheduling as transparent and efficient as possible for the existing workforce to minimize scheduling hiccups and help avoid spreading employees too thin. It might seem like a given healthcare organizations are already utilizing advanced electronic scheduling tools, but a 2016 survey actually found:

– Nearly one-fourth (23 percent) of nurse managers utilize no scheduling tools at all.
– Another quarter (24 percent) of nurses use paper-based staffing tools
– Nearly one-fifth (19 percent) of respondents use digital spreadsheets
– Many nurse managers (43 percent) with access to technology-enhanced scheduling depend on manual scheduling.

The takeaway? Many teams are still missing out on the benefits of harnessing centralized, electronic scheduling tools — particularly those capable of forecasting patient demand and subsequent staffing needs.

Predict Shortages Before They Occur
Healthcare staffing is about more than just hiring to fill vacancies on a rolling basis. To be truly effective, organizations need a hiring strategy in place — one capable of foreseeing shortages before they occur.

This is one way in which healthcare data solutions directly affect performance for providers today. Advanced data analytics platforms like ThoughtSpot allow decision makers to quickly pull insights related to staffing levels, uncover trends in patient demand using artificial intelligence and use this information to mitigate the consequences of inadequate staffing in any department.

Make the Most of Contingent Staffing
Contingent staffing — or utilizing employees on an ad hoc basis to fill gaps — is one tactic organizations can use to fight shortages if full-time staffing practices are falling short. Two of the most important considerations here are ensuring it remains cost-effective to hire traveling staff members and that it’s possible to conduct careful quality control on temporary staff members.

Prioritize Recruiting & Retaining Top Talent
At the end of the day, recruiting and retaining top talent must be a priority for leaders. This means closely auditing hiring practices and treatment of employees, then identifying areas for improvement.

It’s worth asking: What attracts top candidates and retains great employees? Answers range from opportunities for career advancement to competitive compensation/benefits, effective training/onboarding, strong organizational culture, investment in employee wellness programs, recognition for hard work and healthy staffing levels.

Many healthcare roles are experiencing staffing shortages, which means providers need to become even more proactive in how they anticipate talent gaps and head them off. Data analytics, advanced scheduling tools, contingent staffing practices and an improved hiring strategy are a start.

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