This is not your father's workforce; healthcare staffing crises require a totally different approach to labor strategy and engagement
A perfect storm hit the healthcare workforce in 2021 causing a staffing crisis unlike any we’ve ever experienced. Many leaders lay the blame squarely at the feet of COVID-19. But other structural issues related to individual workers’ priorities and preferences have been reshaping the healthcare workforce for years. The pandemic simply accelerated and exacerbated challenges, creating the current healthcare staffing crisis.
Increasing demand and shrinking supply of frontline professionals is hitting provider organizations in unprecedented ways: financial, quality, and patient/customer experience. Most leaders reluctantly admit that we can never simply go back to traditional staffing models with solutions that worked in the past. But giving the current staffing crisis, what is the right path going forward?
It’s time for a completely different approach to staffing
Stamp & Chase’s comprehensive approach to workforce strategy looks at both structural and qualitative aspects of the healthcare workplace experience.
“Hemorrhaging” is a word we’ve heard healthcare executives use often to describe the impact of the current healthcare staffing crisis. We agree. And that’s why we believe stopping the bleeding has to be a top priority. Until turnover is under control, leaders will continue to be on a staffing hamster wheel where they never catch up.
Longer term, we need to take a fresh look at all aspects of staffing:
- Skill mix
- Short- and long-term scheduling options
- Flexible staffing pools (internal and external)
- Intra- and inter-departmental care teams
- Retention strategies
- Staff involvement in scheduling design and options
Perhaps most importantly, organizations must adapt to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce. While some nurses want flexibility (“I like to work overtime … when it fits my schedule.”), others need consistency (“I have kids to feed, so I need to know I can count on 40 hours a week … every week.”)
Focus on the how and why, not just who and what
Our workforce strategic planning process focuses more on how new strategies are implemented as on what they entail. For example, adding licensed practical nurses worked in one hospital while it caused frustration and stress in another facility – in the same system. Using the principles in the “Empower” module of our T.E.A.M. framework, we thoughtfully include frontline staff in planning and implementation to improve both solution design and buy-in.