Training Staff and Providing Advancement Opportunities Is the Way to Mitigate the Crisis in Healthcare Staffing
The Squeeze Is On: Healthcare Staffing at Crisis Levels
It’s not enough that medical centers are smarting from fewer privately insured patients, higher labor costs, and cuts in government spending, the ongoing epidemic in staff shortage is producing a choke hold, particularly on the larger hospitals.
The nursing segment of the healthcare workforce for instance, currently 3 million-strong, is fast proving alarmingly inadequate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is estimated that in the years leading to 2022, there will be a need for an additional 1.2 million registered nurses.
In order to sustain their normal quotas, many hospitals are having to resort to the far costlier options of tapping into foreign nurses and hiring visiting or travel nurses. To cite just the one example, according to a report in the Huffington Post attributed to Staffing Industry Analysts, a worldwide advisor on HR issues, the average cost of travel nurses doubled over three years to $4.8 billion in 2017.
Why this Epic Shortage in Healthcare Employees?
The underlying reasons for this epidemic are no secret. To start with, not only are we living longer, but the US population is also aging at a previously unsurpassed rate—and with it the spread of chronic disease. Estimates have it that preventable chronic diseases are responsible for three quarters of healthcare spending.
In addition, the aging of baby boomers in particular has created a gargantuan workload for healthcare professionals and medical centers. Among those are baby boomer nurses who, having joined the profession in the late 60’s and early 70’s, are now leaving in large numbers as well.
Furthermore, now filling in for retiring nurses, millennials pose issues of their own, particularly in regard to their outlook on employment. With what often seems to be a fleeting interest on their pay packages, their main focus is on benefits, training programs, and advancement opportunities. At crunch-time, they are prone to quit, confident that they’d have little issues securing employment elsewhere.
Other Factors Exacerbating the Staff Shortage
Pressured to the hilt, employee burnout and turnover in their position only exacerbate the problem and cause an additional and costly problems across healthcare. In 2016, turnover was as high as 37 percent at some medical centers, causing seismic human resources disruptions. Supervisors, critical to the success of every HR department, are not faring any better, these leaders once again resorting to quitting and finding alternative employment when their teams are drawn down by drastic shortages.
At the supply end, academies and community colleges offering medical education programs are hard-pressed to keep pace, creating a gridlock in educational opportunities for would-be employees. According to a report by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, nursing schools in 2012 were not able to accommodate some 80,000 qualified applicants wanting to study nursing. This was due to deficits in faculty members, clinical sites, classroom space, and other logistical bottlenecks.
The Skyrocketing Cost of Healthcare Employees
While experiencing deficits in the supply of healthcare employees is nothing new, what is unprecedented is the degree to which it is being felt across the nation. According to a Reuters interview of 20 of the largest hospital chains, US hospitals are forking out billions of dollars annually to offset the shortage problem rather than shut down beds or close down departments.
Peter Callan, director of talent acquisition and development at the University of Missouri Health Care in Columbia, puts it this way: “Our biggest challenge is getting the pipeline of experienced [professionals], with fewer and fewer of them as people retire.” In 2016, his average-sized group hired talent scouts and upped its annual budget by $750,000 to attract employees, pay sign-in bonuses, and reimburse applicants for student loans.
Yet smaller organizations are faring much worse: According to a report by the Chartis Center for Rural Health, more than 40 percent of rural hospitals experienced negative operating margins in 2015.
What’s Needed Are Creative Solutions for the HR Conundrum
It used to be that sign-on bonuses used to solve the problem, at least in the short term. This isn’t working of late however. This shortage is worse than previous ones, and traditional responses aren’t working as well. Says Brenda Nevidjon, RN, MSN, an associate clinical professor at Duke University School of Nursing, “Nurses are not getting lured into the workplace with a sign-on bonus. They know it’s a very stressful workplace.”
Instead, the strategies that are beginning to show the greatest promise are those that include teaching new skills and providing advancement opportunities. Employees in the medical profession—particularly millennials— want to plan out their careers and look for special training programs within their employer organizations that open up avenues for advancement, be that in more advanced nursing openings, doctor positions, or in other medical fields.
Needless to say, providing career advancement programs as effective HR recruitment tools can be costly, with not many chief executives willing to take the plunge. It has to be said however that with the cost of replacing a single employee often reaching as high as an entire annual pay, successful programs can more than offset the cost of luring nursing staff.
Career Development and Learning Programs
“Training employees should be viewed as a lucrative investment,” says Sify eLearning, “and while it serves as a lure for new employees, it also yields significant savings when it comes to retaining employees and reducing turnover.”
Experts in the eLearning space, are especially focused on creating diverse training programs for different medical centers. Given a hospital’s cultural and other attributes, they customize affordable and effective training and development programs that are best suited for each employer’s particular circumstances.
Healthcare institutes are collaborating with Edu-Tech companies to use technology-enabled learning design to accelerate learning for the healthcare and pharma employees. In each case, after analyzing the business problem, audience profile, job performance gaps, existing trainings, and available budgets, they can design and develop a portfolio of appropriate learning programs consisting of a mix of solutions including product videos, interactive 3D models, interactive PDFs, virtual reality immersive procedures, augmented reality operator guides, interactive eLearning modules, Day 1 Readiness blended learning solutions, and mobility learning apps.