3 Strategies for Addressing the Healthcare Workforce Shortage

Senior Director of Marketing

Healthcare systems in the United States have been feeling the effects of the workforce shortage for years now, but a more dire impact is still to come. The Health Resources and Services Administration predicts significant increases by 2030 in the demand for respiratory and physical and occupational therapists, among other allied health professions. The nursing shortage is even worse: National Center for Biotechnology Information data projects a gap of more than 510,000 registered nurses by 2030.

So what can you do to prepare your organization? With such fierce competition, your human resources and talent acquisition functions are vital to creating workplaces that attract and retain top talent. Healthcare staffing and resource firms play an important role in filling your talent pipelines, too.

Here’s how to prepare for future workforce shortages while supporting effective staffing strategies at your healthcare organization.

Home in on Your In-House Training

Upskilling is becoming more crucial for meeting staffing needs. Skills that can be hard to find in the marketplace could be taught to your current workforce. Having your own training program also allows you to cross-train employees to fill gaps in care as they arise. 

As the population ages and experienced healthcare workers drop out of the workforce, healthcare systems are faced with an experience-complexity gap, says Earl Dalton, Chief Nursing Officer at Health Carousel. “It's the gap between a lowering experience pool and an increasingly complex patient,” he explains. Patients are presenting with more acute, complex needs, but the workforce has gaps in experience that only continuous learning combined with the right staffing partner can fill, Dalton says.

Leverage the experience that your workforce has before your most seasoned employees retire. Develop mentorship programs that enable them to pass on their knowledge and experiences to the next generations in the workforce. 

Expand the Scope of Talent Attraction

With in-house training bridging gaps in skills, you can hire for skills that support longevity and retention. Look for candidates who possess soft skills such as communication, collaboration and flexibility to power your patient care and support colleagues on the floor. “It's those interpersonal, soft skills that you can't see as well,” says Andy McCall, Managing Director at McCall and Lee. “Do they get along well with others?” These skills open up your talent pool and boost retention by creating a better work environment.

Health systems have always leveraged contingent workforces, but with workforce shortages becoming more common, having a pool of contingent labor has never been more critical. “It’s wise to look at scenarios that can happen,” McCall says. Don’t just look at the short term: A strategic partnership with a staffing firm can provide contingent labor for periods of growth in the future, too.

Many organizations are leaving international talent on the table, too. “We’re seeing hospitals all over the country fighting for the same people,” Dalton says. By hiring internationally, “you'd be opening up a new line of talent of incredibly experienced and talented nurses, and this would get you out of a bidding war with people domestically.” There are legal challenges to hiring internationally that in-house HR and TA teams may not have the bandwidth to handle, but working with a firm that specializes in international talent transfers could dramatically increase your talent pool.

Lean Into Telehealth Programs

More healthcare systems adopted telehealth services last year after stringent restrictions were lifted because of COVID-19. The American Medical Association is advocating continued policy changes that will make telehealth accessible in the long term, not just during this public health emergency. Expanding into telehealth helps healthcare organizations to see more non-acute patients in less time.

“By enabling workflows that allow every care team member to operate virtually at the top of their license, MDs and RN practitioners are able to unlock additional capacity to see more critical patients face to face,” says Dr. Sandeep Pulim, Chief Medical Officer at Bluestream Health. Telemedicine services and credentialing processes allow you to recruit full-time healthcare employees from other states, expanding your talent pool. “Working with providers licensed in multiple states, via multistate licensing compacts,” Pulim says, “organizations can look beyond traditional geographic restrictions for appropriate candidates.”

Although the healthcare workforce shortage is inevitable, your organization doesn’t have to be caught short-staffed. Develop a plan and set your staffing strategy in motion now. With the right staffing partner, innovative talent solutions and in-house learning resources, you can ensure sufficient staffing to meet your patients’ needs.

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