4 Keys to Combat Health Care Workforce Shortages

4 Keys to Combat Health Care Workforce Shortages. Empty sets of blue and green scrubs shown in right profile, front, back, and left profile represent open clinical positions at hospitals and health care systems experiencing workforce shortages.

As a school nurse, Valerie Frohwein enjoys her flexible schedule. It matches her 8-year-old daughter’s school day, allowing her to pick up additional hospital experience during summer break and helps fulfill her ambition to one day return to full-time nursing at a hospital.

But even though Frohwein has wanted to pick up as-needed hospital work, it hasn’t been a viable option because the hours hospitals offered didn’t match her availability. Then she heard about an Morning Consult survey from last September. Meanwhile, 34% of nurses surveyed by the online health care workforce matching platform Incredible Health said they plan to leave their roles by the end of this year.

Responding to these market conditions, many hospitals and health systems are stepping up recruitment efforts, offering more flexible hours and handing out sign-on bonuses for some new hires.

Stepping Up Recruitment and Retention

Last month, Washington-based Providence hosted a three-day virtual hiring event to recruit more full-time registered nurses to work at its Portland area facilities. Candidates took part in 30-minute virtual interviews with a panel of nurse managers and were encouraged to discuss their preferences for specialty, location, shifts and scheduling. Sign-on bonuses of $5,000 to $10,000 were offered to eligible new hires.

Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical in North Carolina found success in a multi-pronged effort to bolster its nursing staff. In recent months, it has:

  • Hired 117 nursing graduates and 87 experienced nurses from North Carolina and other parts of the country.
  • Launched a yearlong nurse residency program to make recruiting easier by providing nurses with mentoring and other support to ease their transition from student to professional.
  • Added 26 certified nursing assistants who provide bedside aid, freeing up nurses to provide skilled patient care.

Meanwhile, Vanderbilt Health in August launched a new employee awards program — Work Perks — to aid in employee retention and recruitment efforts. The initiative features a website where employees can play games to earn perks in music and entertainment, health and wellness, dining and Nashville-area attractions.

4 Keys to Combat Workforce Challenges

As these examples illustrate, health care leaders must confront workforce challenges on multiple levels. In a recent report, Kaufman Hall encouraged executives to develop a fact-based assessment on which to base future workforce strategies, including:

1 | Analyze Your Data.

Nationally, hospital labor expenses increased by more than one-third from pre-pandemic levels. Kaufman Hall data show that the South and West had the highest percentage increases in labor costs, 43% and 42%, respectively, and the West and Northeast/Mid-Atlantic regions consistently had the highest labor expenses across this time period.

2 | Rework Financials.

Higher labor expenses will need to be accommodated in future budgets and forecasts to ensure that organizations can remain financially stable while continuing to deliver safe, high-quality care.

3 | Accelerate Action Plans.

Having real-time data is key to improving processes and workforce efficiency. And the nature of the work itself will need to be redefined for the new socio-economic environment.

4 | Customize Strategies.

Retention and recruitment strategies must be sensitive to subtly different segments of people and positions.

Learn More

The AHA Workforce Solutions webpage provides a wealth of resources on how hospitals and health systems are addressing workforce shortages.

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