Staffing shortages are impacting hospitals all across the nation. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the United States is expected to experience a physician shortage of up to 122,000 by the year 2032 and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing predicts that the accelerations in the rate of retirement among RNs will impact the field considerably. Other healthcare workers, including technicians, dieticians and physician assistants, are also in short supply in many areas.
Whether you operate a large hospital or a small clinic, you need skilled healthcare workers to provide quality patient care. How can you protect your institution from the effects of a shortage of skilled healthcare workers?
How Shortages Hurt Hospitals
Some of the most notable effects of healthcare worker shortages include:
- Decreased quality of care.
Perhaps the most important consequence of a staffing shortage is the lower quality of care patients will receive. When fewer upskilled healthcare workers are available, the amount of time and effort spent taking care of all aspects of patient care are impacted. From cleaning the rooms, cafeteria staffing, security management and providing good care for each patient will be impacted as there are fewer available staff to properly manage the facility’s patient load. As a result, the quality of care will decline.
- Longer wait times.
A shortage of skilled health workers will lead to longer wait times for patients in almost every part of the healthcare process. During stays in the hospital, patients are likely to experience longer wait times if you don’t have the staff you need to accommodate them. Longer wait times frustrate patients, complicate the healthcare process and may even impact healthcare costs increasing and ultimately overall outcomes. If a patient with a cancerous tumor is forced to wait weeks versus days for a surgery date, the disease is likely to be more advanced at the time of the operation, leading to a higher risk of costs and complications.
- Lower patient satisfaction levels.
HCCAP scores can be impacted dramatically. Patient satisfaction levels are sure to decline when staffing levels are low. If patients don’t get the attention they need from healthcare workers it can directly impact patient satisfaction scores. Which are critical to the hospital? What you don’t want are dissatisfied experiences.
- Staff burnout.
In many cases, a shortage of skilled healthcare workers becomes a vicious cycle. When your hospital has a staffing shortage, the remaining workers have to manage heavier workloads, longer hours and frustrated patients. This causes your existing healthcare workers to potentially burn out, which may lead to an even lower quality of care, as well as poor retention rates.
Preventing and Addressing Shortages
While some of the factors that contribute to the shortage of skilled healthcare workers within your facility are out of your control, there are some key areas that can help you address the situation. Some tips to help you prevent shortages within your hospital and/or deal with existing shortages are listed below. And with the probably added workload caused to you and your immediate management team, bringing in a seasoned partner to do the heavy lifting may be “just what the doctor ordered.”
- Look for the cause of the shortage.
If your hospital seems to be experiencing a higher shortage than those around you, consider looking within the facility for factors that may be contributing to your specific shortage increase. Often the smartest place to start is to seek feedback from current staff members, past staff members and patients. Though it is not easy, pay particular attention to criticisms related to the work environment, company culture, pay and benefits package.
- Build an environment employees will love.
Using the information you have collected from your investigations, as well as established trends that have been shown to boost a hospital’s appeal to potential employees, make changes to your policies that foster the type of community you want to see. For example, you may start offering different benefits, better food in the cafeteria or launch an incentive program designed to enhance employee engagement.
- Seek professional help.
Transforming your hospital from a facility with a severe shortage of skilled healthcare workers to an institution that attracts the top talent in the field can be a challenge. Fortunately, partnering with seasoned consultants can simplify the process. For example, working with a healthcare consulting firm can provide you with the resources you need to understand and overcome a shortage of skilled healthcare professionals. Soriant can provide a number of services that improve the overall operations of your facility, including interim management, contract services, and a more streamlined linen/laundry process. When your hospital is able to operate more efficiently, healthcare professionals are more likely to want to work for you. The right healthcare consulting firm can help you reduce your overhead operating expenses, identify vendor-provided capital infusion that can provide funds for projects that will enhance not only the patient experience but often can be used to support your staff. Not only can this help you attract new employees, but enhance the environment that will keep your current employees happy, improving retention rates.
Please contact Soriant today to begin a dialogue about what staffing shortages you are facing and how we can be of service, firstname.lastname@example.org.