Workforce Planning in Healthcare to Optimize or Reconstruct Talent Layers

September 7, 2022

The workforce constitutes a significant backbone and determinant of the quality of service within the healthcare system. With growing patient numbers and diverse healthcare needs, considerable burdens have weighed down traditional workforce planning strategies. There's an urgent call for a reconstructive approach to healthcare workforce planning. This restructuring focuses on streamlining operations, optimizing resource utilization, and ensuring efficient service delivery while maintaining high-quality care.

Health Carousel, an innovative, technology-driven leader in healthcare staffing solutions, is committed to tackling these challenges head-on. With customized workforce solutions and end-to-end support, we use our clinically-led approach to solve your workforce planning problems.

Understanding the Need for Reconstructing Workforce Planning

The healthcare landscape continues to grow more complex by the year. An aging population, the rise of chronic illnesses, nursing shortages, clinician burnout, and cost containment pressures all contribute to the need for new approaches to workforce planning.

Many healthcare organizations realize their existing staffing frameworks and talent deployment strategies are no longer working through changes like:

  • Vacancy and turnover rates continue to worsen.
  • Over reliance on premium labor.
  • Quality and safety metrics are stagnating.
  • Patient experience scores remain low.
  • Clinician engagement and morale are on the decline.

Workforce planning and staffing leaders find themselves stuck in a vicious transactional cycle of plugging daily staffing holes without the ability to drive higher-level strategic change. The core issue lies in outdated planning models that fail to account for today’s challenges.

Why Existing Models Fall Short

Several factors render traditional workforce planning methodologies ineffective:

  • Failure to Forecast Healthcare Consumerism Impacts: Models rarely account for trends like convenience care, telehealth, and value-based reimbursement that shift setting demand.
  • Reliance on Static Staffing Without Forecasting Agility: Annual budgets using outdated ratios fail to adjust for fluctuations in patient demand.
  • Disjointed Planning Cycles: Disconnection between finance, operations, HR, and clinical leaders results in misalignment.
  • Lack of Visibility into Leading Indicators: Planning happens without insights from turnover probability, emerging hiring trends, and shifting specialty needs.

The Implications are Severe

Without reform, the downstream effects of poor planning will only grow more damaging over time:

  • Perpetual staffing crises and reliance on excess premium pay.
  • Widening gaps between patient demand and clinician capacity.
  • Risk of worsening patient safety incidents and lower care quality.
  • Difficulty retaining top clinical talent.
  • Reduced ability to provide competitive wages and benefits.

The bottom line is existing workforce planning models fail to offer the agility, alignment, analytics, and adaptability needed to thrive in the new healthcare system.

Reimagining Your Approach to Workforce Planning

While these potential issues are serious, there's no reason your facility can't adapt its approach for better planning and improved patient care. Let's take a look at how you can do just that.

Assessing Current Workforce Mix

The first step your healthcare organization must take is to conduct an in-depth analysis of the current workforce. This includes assessing staffing models, scheduling approaches, talent layers, and metrics such as turnover, overtime reliance, patient safety indicators, and employee engagement. Health Carousel works with you to create and analyze this assessment as the first step in your workforce planning initiative.

Evaluating Existing Staffing and Scheduling

Next, you need to evaluate existing staffing practices. Many healthcare organizations still rely on outdated staffing methodologies that no longer match today's challenges. Assessing scheduling for core clinical roles is essential. Common approaches include:

  • Set shifts based on seniority rather than patient demand.
  • Rigid self-scheduling policies.
  • Minimal cross-training between specialties.

Forward-thinking scheduling strategies are key for core staff retention and flexibility, such as:

  • Acuity-based staffing aligned to the census.
  • Demand-based scheduling.
  • Self-scheduling options.
  • Shared governance in developing schedules.

Analyzing the Core and Contingent Workforce

Understanding the current state of the core and contingent workforce is vital for calibration. Key metrics include:

  • Core vs contingent mix by role type.
  • Average tenure and turnover for core and contingent.
  • Willingness of contingent staff for core placement.

Other Key Metrics

Simply plugging staffing gaps keeps leaders stuck in a transactional cycle. Evaluating metrics tied to broader goals around experience, cost, and outcomes is needed:

  • Patient safety indicators
  • Patient experience scores
  • Readmissions and mortality rates
  • Overtime and premium pay costs
  • Employee vacancy, retention, and engagement

Optimizing Existing Talent Layers

Once your current state analysis is complete, optimizing existing talent through creative scheduling and expanding internal flex roles can help balance the workforce. This is an important part of your workforce planning that shouldn't be overlooked. To innovate solutions, start by organizing and optimizing what you have. Health Carousel provides support through our technology-enabled solutions and experienced consultants.

Getting Creative with Scheduling

While staffing models are structural, scheduling provides an opportunity for workforce fluidity. Creative approaches might include:

  • Flexible shift start/end times
  • Shift swapping options
  • Compressed work weeks
  • Remote work and telehealth options

Health Carousel’s analytics-driven Vendor Management System (VMS) technology allows demand-based scheduling aligned to seasonal and daily patient census fluctuations. The system issues real-time alerts for forecasted gaps, enabling proactive mitigation through flex staff or schedule adjustments.

Expanding Internal Flexibility

Many healthcare organizations under leverage their own contingent talent pools. Developing contingent staffing can optimize internal flexibility through:

  • Float pools supporting multiple units
  • Specialty-specific resource teams
  • Internal traveler programs

Leveraging Data and Analytics

Optimization should be data-driven. Key inputs provided by Health Carousel’s business intelligence capabilities include:

  • Demand-based budgeting tied to seasonal and acuity fluctuations.
  • Scheduling based on monthly, weekly, and daily demand.
  • Predictive analytics leveraging AI and machine learning.

This enables more accurate forecasting, just-in-time staffing calibration, and lower premium labor reliance over the long term.

Reconstructing Talent Layers in Healthcare

Once internal flexibility is maximized, reconstructing talent layers by adding external contingent roles can offer variability. This approach - which combines internal talent with external candidates - alleviates burdens on full-time staff, allows you to deliver better care, and can help with identifying skill gaps (and filling them!)

Health Carousel provides access to national travel nurses, high-quality international nurses, and locally-based contingent talent to help you find the right staffing mix.

Phase Approach to Adjusting Workforce Mix

An incremental approach is best for reconstructing talent layers to include:

  • Phase 1: Optimize core staff models and scheduling approaches.
  • Phase 2: Expand internal flex programs.
  • Phase 3: Introduce external flexible layers.

Health Carousel guides calibrating the introduction of contingent staff to find the right balance across the core, internal flex, and external flex roles. We recognize that every healthcare system is unique and requires a unique solution, so we customize strategic workforce planning and deliver an all-in-one solution - no need to seek out multiple vendors.

Adding External Flex Layers

Determining which external flex models to add depends on cost, quality, and operational considerations. Health Carousel offers access to:

  • Local travelers who deliver a rapid response.
  • National travel nurses give your facility access to a wider talent pool.
  • International nurses who are invested in long-term careers in the U.S.
  • External float pools, which allow for hybrid talent deployment.

Balancing Internal and External Solutions

The optimal scenario blends the stability and continuity of internal talent with the flexibility of external solutions:

  • Set thresholds aligning internal and external ratios.
  • Leverage external roles for short-term gaps.
  • Transition successful external staff to core or internal flex.

Implementation Roadmap

Effectively introducing flexible workforce changes requires careful planning and phased rollout. Health Carousel’s experts help navigate key components like stakeholder alignment, change management, technology integration, and optimization planning.

Clinically Led Design for Optimal Healthcare Staffing

One of the most important aspects of healthcare workforce planning is approaching the process through a clinically led framework. This means staffing decisions aren't just numbers-driven but informed by clinical insights. A clinically-led approach ensures that staffing levels and skill mixes are directly aligned with patient care needs, thus enhancing the quality of care and patient outcomes.

Clinically-led design involves collaboration between HR professionals, workforce planners, and clinical heads, fostering a culture of shared responsibility in staffing. Health Carousel is proudly clinically led, meaning all our work comes from clinically informed decisions. We work with experts who best know the industry, the requirements, the pain points, and how to solve them. Let our team put their real-world knowledge to work for your organization.

Read: Learn about Workforce Planning in Healthcare as Demonstrated by Case Studies

Healthcare Workforce Management from Health Carousel

Healthcare organizations that embrace flexible workforce planning and optimize their talent layers stand to gain a significant competitive edge. Those relying on outdated staffing methodologies will continue facing mounting costs, care quality, and clinician retention challenges.

If you're ready to invest in effective workforce planning, Health Carousel is here to help. We offer specialized expertise and technology to guide our partners through every phase of reconceptualizing workforce planning, talent optimization, and flexible staffing implementation. Our clinically led, metrics-driven approach provides tailored solutions spanning internal flex consulting, national and international recruiting, vendor management systems, change adoption, and continuous improvement.

The future of healthcare hinges on new visionary models for acquiring, deploying, and engaging talent. Organizations that fail to reinvent their workforce planning will lag behind. Partnering with Health Carousel brings the thought leadership and total talent management infrastructure needed to lead healthcare’s staffing evolution into the modern era and work toward enhancing patient care. Discover our workforce solutions today or contact us to learn more. Or learn about more topics like workforce planning in healthcare to create talent agility on our website.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the workforce planning process in healthcare?

The workforce planning process in healthcare involves a systematic approach to ensure that facilities have the right number of staff and proper skills to serve the needs of the healthcare system. This process includes assessing the current workforce, forecasting future needs based on patient care requirements and healthcare trends, identifying gaps between the current workforce and future needs, and developing strategies to recruit, retain, and deploy healthcare personnel. This strategic planning is crucial for improving patient care quality, managing healthcare costs, and addressing the dynamic challenges in healthcare environments.

What is workforce planning in talent management?

Workforce planning in talent management is a strategic process designed to align an organization's human resources with its business goals and objectives. It involves forecasting future talent needs, assessing the current workforce's capabilities, identifying skills gaps, and developing strategies to attract, develop, retain, and deploy employees.

How can we improve workforce performance in healthcare?

Improving workforce performance in healthcare can be accomplished by focusing on continuous education and training, ensuring that healthcare professionals are up-to-date with the latest medical practices and technologies. Additionally, enhancing employee engagement and job satisfaction through feedback mechanisms, recognition programs, and opportunities for professional growth can motivate staff and reduce turnover. Implementing technology solutions that streamline administrative tasks can also free healthcare professionals to focus more on patient care, improving service quality and efficiency.

About Health Carousel

Health Carousel is committed to partnering with world-class healthcare facilities across the country, providing rewarding assignments for Registered Nurses and Allied Health Professionals, and attracting the best internal talent at all career levels.