How to Build Your Future Workforce Pipeline

How to Build Your Future Workforce Pipeline. A six-by-three grid with a diverse workforce of eighteen hospital clinicians shown from the chest up.

Hospitals and health systems continue to face acute workforce challenges. Competition for labor remains intense, particularly for nurses. Staffing costs are skyrocketing, especially in small rural hospitals that often find it hard to attract workers.

But as the AHA’s recently released 2023 Health Care Workforce Scan points out, member organizations are finding innovative ways to recruit, retain staff and build a robust worker pipeline for the future. The report also offers ways to reconnect clinicians to purpose and how to provide the support, training and technology clinicians need to thrive in multiple care delivery environments.

4 Ways to Build Your Workforce Pipeline

1 | Collaborate to expand training options.

Partner with schools, community organizations and other health care organizations to create apprenticeships, earn-while-you-learn programs and other on-the-job training opportunities. Here are some ways provider organizations are partnering to grow training programs for prospective health care workers.

  • Mary Washington Healthcare in Virginia began partnering with Germanna Community College on an earn-while-you-learn program, onboarding two cohorts of as many as 60 students per year. Nursing students work 12-20 hours a week using a clinical rotation model. The program now includes another nursing school as well as mentor models for nursing assistants and is considering an apprenticeship model for other clinical roles such as surgical technologists.
  • Participants in the Jump Start program at MercyOne in Iowa receive a monthly stipend while they finish nursing school, with MercyOne covering the cost of board exams and licensing fees. After RN licensure, the nurses begin work at MercyOne.
  • Project Firstline is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national training collaborative for health care infection prevention and control. As part of the program, the AHA is partnering with the League for Innovation in the Community College to provide comprehensive infection control education and practice for nursing students and allied health students.

2 | Recruit internationally.

Over the next three years, Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plans to hire more than 700 internationally trained nurses for its health system. Sanford covers housing during the initial transition period and has instituted a program to help the nurses get acculturated to their new communities.

3 | Be flexible.

Build flexibility into jobs wherever possible, and provide technology support that enables remote work, including for roles traditionally handled in person. Modernize staffing models and offer more shift options with variable start times, durations, locations and sharing opportunities. Integrate app-enabled capabilities to support self-scheduling, work-from-home opportunities and schedule flexibility.

  • Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network’s (ANH) mobile internal staffing model offers nurses and technicians in select roles the opportunity to rotate to AHN hospitals throughout the state. AHN also has options for employees who prefer to work weekends or night shifts.
  • Yale New Haven Hospital (YNHH) developed an alternative staffing model that uses a variety of licensed and nonlicensed nursing team members to support critical care registered nurses. YNHH leaders also created flex shifts, including four-hour support role shifts, for nurses whose schedules could not accommodate a traditional-length shift.

4 | Boost investment in upskilling.

More than half of health care workers say they are interested in upskilling. Education and upskilling programs can reduce financial barriers to choosing a health care career and advancing professionally.

  • UC Health in Colorado plans to invest $50 million in its new Ascend leadership program to help current and prospective employees earn clinical certification, participate in foundational learning programs such as English language and college prep, and earn degrees in areas like social work and behavioral health.

5 Things to Think about Going Forward

  1. What opportunities can you provide to increase shadow experiences for clinical positions?
  2. What local universities, community colleges, and/or online educational platforms can you partner with to attract high school students to health care careers?
  3. What new career pathways can you create by expanding upskilling and professional development training?
  4. In what ways can you increase scheduling flexibility to better meet workers’ life-balance objectives?
  5. How can you prepare to ensure high-quality patient care in the face of continuing labor shortages?

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