7 Innovative Strategies For Healthcare Workforce Shortage Solutions
The Current State of Healthcare Staffing Shortages
The healthcare staffing shortage has been an issue of significant concern, especially after pandemics, endemics, and tripledemics rocked the healthcare industry. The healthcare worker shortage applies across the board, including physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and much more.
Across the country, most labor markets have continually needed more staff than they have available. With a projected shortage of more than 3 million healthcare professionals on the horizon, health systems across the country are scrambling to fill vital workforce gaps.
As patient wait times rise and workforce numbers dwindle - how can medical facilities combat a tight labor market and concerning staffing shortage? While there is no single solution, a multi-faceted approach to boosting staffing numbers can help bridge the gap.
Key Solution Strategies for the Healthcare Workforce
Before you Hire
1. Strengthen Internal Healthcare Force to Optimize Retention
One of the most effective - and overlooked - strategies to improve workforce numbers is to focus on the employees you already have. No amount of new hires can improve your situation if your organization is still hemorrhaging current employees. Not only does staff retention cost significantly less than a new hire that requires training and onboarding, but it also ensures your hiring efforts aren’t in vain. Before you jump into new hiring strategies, make sure you’re taking care of your core staff.
Effective retention efforts start with listening to your workforce. Take into account current complaints or requests from your staff and incorporate them into future changes. When your staff feels listened to, they’re much more likely to stick around instead of leaving for greener pastures.
Other proven ways to boost retention include schedule improvements or increased time off to reduce staff burnout. Increased pay through raising wages and bonuses can also be a wise investment that pays for itself in the long run. Appreciation gifts, catered lunches, and other employee perks can round out a solid retention plan that will keep your current workers loyal and happy while you’re addressing shortages.
2. Ensure Greater Internal Communication and Staffing Management Planning
Even a robust staff can struggle to complete their duties adequately if there is a breakdown in communication or management. Give your employees the tools they need to succeed by setting up effective processes that will keep your workplace running smoothly. Your employees will appreciate knowing they are valued and respected
It is vital to ensure your employees are always aware of the scope of their duties and any changes. Take a good look at your internal communication processes. Are your employees able to easily reach each other when they have questions, crises, or need assistance? Are they consistently managing patient care and transport information without important details falling through the cracks? Take stock of the current situation and listen to your employees. You may be surprised at the difference it creates in making lean staff numbers as effective as possible.
A key part of this effort includes involved management. Ensure your supervising staff is aware of your efforts and understands the importance of clear communication. Consider offering ongoing training on management, strategy, and execution to supervisors and senior staff. When your workforce numbers are lean, it is vital to streamline your staff’s communication and processes for maximum efficiency.
3. Plug Inefficiency Holes
Before hiring more staff, make sure your current employees are being used as efficiently as possible. Hiring shortages can be greatly exacerbated by scheduling snafus and redundant processes. Take stock of where your greatest need lies and where your staff is being utilized.
Often, you will be able to identify simple changes to maximize your staff’s efficiency. For instance, you may have a busy shift staffed primarily with newer or less experienced employees. Alternatively, you could have multiple supervising physicians working the same shift, with another busy shift covered primarily by less qualified employees. Making sure more qualified staff are evenly distributed during busy hours with less experienced staff under the supervision of senior workers can help maximize staff productivity and combat the physician shortage.
Don’t forget to listen to your employees. Productivity consultants and regular post-mortems can be helpful, but no one knows a workplace’s needs and flow better than boots-on-the-ground staff. Never discount feedback from workers without doing your due diligence, otherwise, you can miss valuable information about running your workplace as effectively as possible.
Filling Staff Vacancies
4. Invest in Marketing to the Forthcoming Generation
It pays to play the long game when attracting new healthcare employees. The future of healthcare is currently just starting out in school. Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of reaching out to medical students, pre-med, or even high-schoolers who are just beginning to ponder what career path they want to pursue.
A simple way to get in front of younger generations is by attending career fairs aimed at students. Setting up a booth with branded swag and representatives to speak with students is a great way to encourage them to join the healthcare industry - and get your name in front of potential employees from the get-go.
Offering internships, continued training, or supervised hours when advertising vacant roles can also help attract students. Many students pursuing or planning to pursue an education in healthcare are eager to gain clinical experience. Ensure you’re in contact with local universities as a potential student employer. Every healthcare provider understands the importance of residencies, but well before that, students may be interested in part-time or flexible jobs where they can gain hands-on experience to strengthen future applications. Local community colleges, high schools, and job training programs can be great places to attract medical assistants, phlebotomists, home health aides, and other healthcare workers who aren’t pursuing medical degrees.
5. Consider Travel Nurses
Travel nursing has exploded in popularity in recent years - and for good reason. During the height of the pandemic, many hospitals turned to travel nurses to keep their staffing numbers high enough to manage soaring patient populations. Even as fewer COVID patients fill the ERs, travel nurses can still be a great option to fill the gap left by the staffing shortage.
Some healthcare systems hesitate to hire travel nurses due to the increased upfront cost compared to traditional nursing models. Travel nurses are paid a premium in exchange for their willingness to travel anywhere there is a staffing need. Bonuses and stipends for housing and travel expenses are generally expected when advertising these positions since they are working far from home.
However, the long-term financial benefits of employing travel nurses mean hospitals can save money over time by utilizing their services. By bringing on additional travel nurse staff, healthcare organizations can give their local nurses dependable schedules and more time off. Reducing the burden on traditional nursing employees means a reduction in burnout and an increase in overall patient care quality. The long-term benefits generally end up paying for themselves when it comes to hiring travel nurses.
6. Be Willing to Yield to Worker Schedule Flexibility
When attracting new hires and retaining your existing workforce, make sure you emphasize schedule flexibility. Accommodating an irregular schedule may be slightly inconvenient - but it can have incredible results. Flexible schedules are a low-cost way to add value to a position.
This can include offering longer shifts and fewer days worked or shorter shifts with more days worked. Extra PTO and willingness to accommodate employee schedule changes are both incredibly valued options. Don’t be afraid to reach out to employees and listen to their concerns and opinions - they will appreciate their voices being heard, and you’ll gain valuable insight into desirable schedules.
7. Seek Internationally
If you’re looking for alternatives to the short-term nature of travel nursing, you may want to consider international staffing. As demand for travel nurses skyrockets, many healthcare organizations have begun looking outside of the United States for new staff. Since staff demand has outpaced internal supply in every state, hiring international nursing staff is a natural way to increase staff numbers despite a growing shortage of healthcare workers.
International healthcare staffing agencies connect hospitals with nurses from other nations. The benefits to both health systems and workers are numerous. International workers are often interested in traveling and working outside of their home country. Nurses who are interested in permanently immigrating can also partner with international staffing agencies.
Financially, international staffing can be a boon for both hospitals and employees. International hires may have the opportunity to earn more money than they would in their home country. For nonprofit hospitals and other healthcare systems looking for an affordable option, international staffing rates can be a great, steady solution.
International hires are an alternative to travel nurses when it comes to the length of their contracts. Often nurses from other countries are interested in long-term job opportunities – approximately three-year contracts. While the international hiring process is a bit more complex, it can pay off with permanent staffing solutions.
Of course, international hiring comes with more complex paperwork and legal requirements. Make sure to work with a legitimate and well-regarded international agency that specializes in healthcare staffing for groups like PassportUSA. This can save you a serious headache when it comes to potential visa issues, regulatory standards, and contract negotiation.
We Value Healthcare Workers
Healthcare workers are the backbone of our country. In the face of unprecedented challenges for our workforce, nurses and the full-spectrum of healthcare providers have proven they will continually rise to the challenge. We support, celebrate, and stand by our healthcare workers.
No matter the specialty or skill level, healthcare professionals have consistently gone above and beyond to put patient care above everything. This exemplary dedication and selflessness is one reason we honor healthcare workers as heroes. Serving the healthcare industry and making sure these professionals have the support and resources they need is our highest goal.
Explore our website to learn more about how we’re supporting the healthcare industry and global nursing shortages.