by Brian Bonar
“Quick, get the doctor!” Or “quick, get the nurse!” is not merely a phrase you might hear in a maternity ward or on the set of the television show, Grey’s Anatomy. It’s a call for help that healthcare workers and patients alike know all too well. The problem is, finding properly trained and reliable healthcare professionals to answer that call has become increasingly difficult.
A true talent emergency
There’s no doubt the “Great Resignation” paired with the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the way people think about work across all industries—and healthcare has been no different. In fact, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare employment still remains below pre-pandemic levels, with the number of workers down by 1.1%, or 176,000, compared to February 2020.
Historically, this has been an industry where the workforce experiences long hours and limited coverage for time off. So, although these issues aren’t new, the overwhelming physical, emotional, and mental strain of the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a massive burnout. According to Deloitte, about half (46%) of the clinicians reported high levels of burnout, 35% said their burnout is modest, and only 19% reported no or minimal burnout.
And it’s no wonder why: during the pandemic, patient numbers soared just as many healthcare professionals left their positions due to stress and obvious health concerns. The result? A true talent emergency; one that requires urgent action from all healthcare leaders.
The starting treatment
The fact of the matter is the healthcare industry cannot continue operating as is. Just like doctors do with their patients, they must diagnose the problem and implement a treatment plan. Addressing the staffing crisis is going to require a holistic approach. To ensure consistency and quality of service, healthcare entities should start by:
- Granting job flexibility. Providing flexible shifts is a great place for healthcare entities to start. This flexibility gives clinicians (particularly nurses) options to better accommodate their personal needs, whether it’s four, six, eight, or 10-hour shifts. Another emerging method that grants more flexibility is implementing job-sharing (splitting a full-time position between two individuals) and similar mixed work models. Not only does this mean that healthcare providers can help ensure qualified personnel are available to meet patient needs, but it also allows workers to balance their professional and personal lives more easily, which can increase employee satisfaction and ultimately lead to better patient outcomes.
- Investing in technology. Many aspects of healthcare workers’ responsibilities require manual tasks such as filing and paperwork. These unnecessary and low-value tasks steal time away from patient care, such as those that satisfy administrative requirements (32%) and work that could be done by others or automated (20%), as reported by Deloitte. Cutting-edge technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence can help streamline these manual processes and reduce paperwork. Additionally, telemedicine solutions allow providers to consult with patients remotely, freeing up valuable time and money spent on travel expenses. Utilizing technology has proven to increase the quality of care while reducing staff burdens.
- Redesigning work teams. Redesigned work teams can help take advantage of individual team members’ strengths, bring in more assistive clinical workers, and allow everyone to operate at the top of their license. Per the Deloitte 2022 Survey of US Physicians, clinicians who use comprehensive care teams find them highly effective (90% say they are effective all or most of the time in in-person settings).
A long-term investment
While job flexibility, redesigned teams, and new technological advancements will help address the underlying drivers that have led to the talent emergency, healthcare systems will need to fundamentally transform the way they deliver care in order to achieve a long-lasting impact.
To alleviate the pressure felt by staff members for the long-term, healthcare companies need to invest in their people. They must provide dedicated and ongoing support to all of their employees. This may include specific training initiatives, improved career progression pathways, or enhanced mental health and wellbeing services. Ultimately, by providing the necessary resources to help healthcare staff manage their workloads, providers can ensure a higher quality of care is delivered in an atmosphere that fosters long-term job satisfaction and encourages employee retention.
Innovation is the future of healthcare
Innovative healthcare companies who are truly dedicated to meeting the critical needs of this lifesaving workforce are the ones who will be successful at attracting and retaining top talent for the long term. Only by redesigning current working models, offering job flexibility, implementing new technology, and investing in their people, will healthcare providers earn the trust from their staff members that’s essential for future success.