Jacob Kupietzky is chairman of Healthcare Transformationa company dedicated to providing experienced interim managers to hospitals.
There is no doubt that the current workforce crisis is having a widespread impact across all our communities – from increases in healthcare-related infections and worry about patient safety until longer waiting times and higher costs†
The reality is that what we are doing now to mitigate the crisis – canceling non-essential procedures, raising wages and offering astronomical sign-up bonuses –is not enough† It is not sustainable because there are simply not enough people to fill the necessary roles. The supply-demand issue is compounded by the number of other trends affecting the workforce:
• Work-life balance, external/hybrid schedules and being autonomy growing values and expectations for employees in all sectors and sectors.
• People want to work for a company that values diversity, equality and inclusion†
• Employers rush to hire professionals with not only the technical aptitude to do the job, but also socio-emotional “soft” skills†
• People want benefits in mental health and emotional wellbeing and are looking for companies that: robust benefits and programs†
The future of healthcare hinges on finding a solution to the labor shortage, and it’s clear that poaching each other’s frontline talent and offering nurses tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of signing bonuses is not a viable long-term solution. Every time you fill a position with more expensive, outside talent, you lose the experience of someone who has worked in your institution and has immersed themselves in your culture. This often translates into a decrease in patient satisfaction and clinical outcome measures.
Healthcare staffing is incredibly complex and requires a multifaceted approach. The infrastructure itself has to change and interventions will have to be transformational to create long-term lasting change. Following are three strategic solutions to address staff shortages.
1. Create links with local medical schools.
If it’s not feasible for your organization to outbid hospitals across the country for talent, you may be better served by creating your own network. For example, what if your staffing team could partner with local medical and nursing schools so you can build relationships with administrators and instructors? By establishing a series of guest lectures or mentorship programs with the school, you can make your hospital a natural starting point for their students.
If you can enhance the desirability of that relationship, for example by setting up a student loan forgiveness program based on a tenure at your hospital, you could even create a situation where the most promising students at college vie for you to work. Using this long-term lens gives you the opportunity to create a real, vital pipeline of talent and influence the flow of future staff.
2. Redefine your organizational structure – at the enterprise level.
A key to retaining talent is removing temptations to leave. If you operate a distributed health care system over a large geographic area, you may have a means of providing your staff with additional opportunities for career growth and development that will leave them unable to look elsewhere.
Imagine a multi-site healthcare system managed by a single staff team. By identifying opportunities in other locations within your network, you provide your workforce with a means to build their diversity of expertise while also creating a pool of outside resources.
A hub-and-spoke model may be particularly desirable for recent graduates, as it could allow them to begin their careers in a clinic before becoming licensed hospital physicians. That would be a win for the practitioner, a win for the hospital, and a win for patients, who are now treated by more established, long-term clinicians with a wider range of experiences. There are clear organizational benefits to be gained from leveraging your footprint so that your workforce can be trained in different environments without leaving the organization altogether.
3. Create your own internal employment agency.
Many larger networks are trying to solve their staffing problems with PRN, just-in-time staffing solutions. The problem is, as a non-profit integrated health care system foundEach of the organizations that make up a healthcare network often has its own staffing structures and budget constraints, making matching resources almost impossible. Enter HR as a strategic asset.
By creating your own centralized, internal pool, you can have your own talent filled in at various in-network organizations. And because it’s one integrated system, it creates multiple benefits:
• You can more easily identify needs within organizations and coordinate staff to match talent to need.
• It saves time and eliminates the complexity of onboarding.
• It offers employees additional opportunities to earn income without having to search, hire and train additional staff.
• It allows you to tap into a pipeline of talent that can’t commit to full-time work – medical professionals who might not otherwise be available to you.
Setting up an in-house staffing agency will undoubtedly take time and resources to test, but increasing access with trained people who know how to do business will give you a competitive advantage.
Talent is never a bad investment.
Investing in people always yields a good return. This is especially true for the healthcare sector. By investing in their people, hospitals and healthcare organizations can improve patient care, increase employee engagement and boost their overall reputation. The ROI is significant: Being intentional and thinking long term will help create the capacity needed to develop and retain top talent.