7 Expert Solutions on Managing Your Workforce Efficiently

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The following article is based on a panel discussion hosted by Health Carousel and the National Rural Health Association. To listen to part of the candid discussion on the go — Including additional content from this conversation —  download The Workforce Solution, available in iTunes, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.

What will your hospital administration do differently in a post-COVID pandemic era?

That was a critical question at a recent panel discussion hosted by Health Carousel and the National Rural Health Association called: “'Mind the Gap: Managing Your Workforce Efficiently.”'

“COVID has hyper exposed the vulnerabilities of how we approach workforce strategy, planning and management, and I'm reading every day in Becker's where hospitals are shutting down or being acquired. It's every day, and it's multiple organizations,” said Alan Dial, president and creator of Staff DX, a cloud-based workforce solution software.

“If you're a senior leader at a hospital: What are we going to do different tomorrow and the next day?  What are we actually going to do different? … And if I don't know the answer to that question, who am I partnering with to craft the right response for my organization?”

The panelists identified the top trends facing the industry — including staffing shortages, recruiting and retaining talent, provider burnout and fatigue, technology and more.

Read on for 7 key issues and solutions the panelists discussed.

1. Introduce more rigor and science to your nurse recruiting campaigns.

Recruiting quality talent begins far before the job posting, said Earl Dalton, a healthcare innovator and Chief Nursing Officer at Health Carousel.

It starts with more rigorous research into the available employment pool within your local community or your digital reach.

Who is available for hire, and what are they looking for in employment? How has that shifted over time?

“If you looked at your benefits package, it mostly aligns to a Gen X, if not a Boomer, generation. It is about your medical plan, your dental, your 401k and all these things,” Dalton said. “It doesn’t really speak to a Gen Z’er who is 19 years old and getting ready to come out of nursing school.”

Consider everything from employment benefits to workplace policies (like the use of technology in the office) to flexibility in scheduling.

2. Consider empathy and work/life balance to prevent burnout and turnover in the first place.

One of the keys to retaining talent is more empathy and understanding for employees, said Michele Sexton, a 25-year industry veteran who is currently serving as CEO for hospitals during COVID and is the owner of Mission Health Care and Mission Physician Partners.

Currently, only 19 percent of nurses under age 35 feel their organization cares about their well-being, according to a recent survey from the American Nurses Federation.

Sexton credited former hospital CEO Brian Paratis, author of the book “Lead with Love,” for shifting her perspective on this.

“His approach was well ahead of his time in that we are going to have to, again, lead with love as leaders, lead with empathy and understand what’s going on in people’s lives,” Sexton said.

It’s a proactive way to avoid burnout in the first place, she said.

3. Seek opportunities to work nursing to the full extent of their license.

Both rural and urban administrators could be more creative and efficient in managing their workforces, Dial said.

“We need to be more creative in how we maximize our resources,” he said.

Among his recommendations: Remove non-clinical tasks that consume a nurse’s time by adding in more support roles, and seek out and create bimodal nursing resources.  

“The position of nursing across the country is not changing in the near term, so we have to react to that and unburden them so we can kind of control the bleeding.”

4. Invest in smart technology that goes beyond reporting of data.

One more example Dial gives of how to remove time-consuming tasks from a nurse: Eliminate or reduce the time spent on administrative tasks like scheduling.

“I talk to directors all the time who say they spend 10 hours a week in scheduling. Why? Why do we need to spend 10 hours a week scheduling? It's ridiculous,” he said.

Technology can play an important role — but too many technology tools are really just reports that regurgitate data that you input, Dial comments.

“Reports in themselves do not change and sustain behavior,” he said.

Dial referenced his platform, StaffDX, that supports planning, budgeting and analyzing staffing strategies. It supports scheduling and even considers day-of-week variation in patient demand.

“Choose technology solutions that eliminate the paper, mundane administrative tasks associated with being a clinical leader,” Dial said. “I mean, as much of that as we can eliminate — again, in the spirit of maximizing our resources — I think that's going to go a long way. Then we can be put in a position where we’re proactive vs. always looking in the rearview mirror.”

5. Move beyond transactional relationships with vendors to create true partnerships.

One of the keys to a post-COVID hospital administration, the panelists agreed: Create partnerships and relationships, rather than transactional exchanges with vendors.

Hospital administrators, by nature and training, tend to be leaders who make independent decisions, Sexton said.

Moving into the post-COVID era, it’s more important than ever that hospitals consider things like grants available or Carts Act funding that could cover products, services or COVID-related staffing.

“There's no way to understand all of those things. We need to have partners that are calling us up and saying hey, did you understand that new Cares Act funding?” Sexton said. “It's going to take a village to continue to be able to take care of our patients.”

Dial agreed on partnering with experts, in part because: “I don't always know what I don't know.”

6. Hiring a staffing partner to support short-term and long-term solutions to the staffing shortage.

As she built successful partnerships, Sexton and Mission Group went so far as eliminating their internal recruitment department several years ago.

Her new model, working successfully with staffing firm partners, has been somewhat novel and highly effective for business, she said.

“Is it possible I know everything? And if it's not possible, which it's not, what am I going to do to surround myself with the team, and with my partners, who can help me move forward and solve my issues?” Sexton said. “And that's a real gut check for us in the hospital C suite.”

Dalton offered four key checkpoints for vetting potential staffing firm partners:

  1. Learn about the firm’s true recruiting capability. How many people will specifically be assigned to help your hospital?
  2. Ask about their marketing strategy. How do they plan to reach selected audiences?
  3. Do they have clinical competency? How important is that to their firm?
  4. What is their digital presence and reach? It’s incredibly important in today’s world to have access to nurses 24/7.

7. Proactively monitor for burnout at all levels — including in you and your team.

Dalton recently attended a Staffing Industry Analysts conference where a presenter asked: “Where does your personal team sit for burnout?”

The question “hit me square in the face,” he said. “Burnout is everywhere … but have we been the change we need to seek in the world? How are you doing in your own house?”

Back at Health Carousel, Dalton promptly kicked off a series of quarterly reviews around burnout for his management team to assess and evaluate their own burnout levels.

“Can my team identify burnout in themselves? How's your relationship with your mate, your kids, your God? How are you taking care of yourself physically?” Dalton said. “Can you even identify some of the problems related to burnout yourself?”

He challenged the panelists to look at themselves and their own team and to do so in an intentional, measurable way.

“Our hospital partners require of me and my team more than ever to be on our A game,” he said. “ And I really think … you’ve got to have it to give it.”

This article was based on a panel discussion hosted by Health Carousel and the National Rural Health Association. To listen to more of the candid discussion, download The Workforce Solution, available in iTunes, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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