Examining Challenges, Trends, and Other Staffing News
At Ultimate Medical Academy (UMA), the state of healthcare staffing is important to us. We aren’t only interested in learning how to prepare our grads to pursue careers, but we also want to know how the current landscape may be impacting our employer partners.
Gaining a better understanding of where healthcare staffing stands today requires looking at three different areas: current challenges, current trends, and other staffing news. Here’s what we’ve found as we enter summer 2023.
Mid-Year Healthcare Staffing Challenges
One of the biggest staffing challenges organizations continue to face is coming up with enough staff to meet the population’s healthcare needs — and those needs are increasing.
Healthcare occupations are expected to grow by 13% from 2021 to 2031 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).1 The growth rate for certain healthcare positions is projected to be even higher. Medical assistant jobs, for instance, have an anticipated growth rate of 16% from 2021 to 2031.2 One of the reasons for this is the aging population.
By the year 2060, one in four Americans will be 65 or older.3 Additionally, 80% of people in this age range may have a chronic health condition, with more than two-thirds possibly having two chronic conditions, if not more.4
This means that more healthcare providers will be needed to care for this demographic. Yet, in a statement issued to the U.S. Senate on February 16, 2023, the American Hospital Association stressed that the healthcare staffing shortage has risen to emergency levels, indicating that while the situation was bad before COVID-19, the pandemic made the problem worse.5
A lack of adequate healthcare staffing has even prompted the introduction of Senate Bill 5236. The goal of this bill is to establish minimum staffing standards within hospitals to improve both healthcare worker safety and patient care.6 Healthcare employers aren’t the only ones feeling the impact of a worker shortage either.
According to a February 2023 HealthDay/Harris Poll, 35% of Americans surveyed said that they either noticed or were affected by the healthcare worker staffing shortage, an increase from 25% just three months before.7 Additionally, out of the 84% who tried to receive healthcare during the previous six months, 73% had challenges or delays in getting that care, leaving 52% worried that staffing shortages are going to prevent them from getting the care they need.
Current Healthcare Staffing Trends
How are healthcare organizations dealing with staffing challenges? One of the trends is to use contract workers.8 Sometimes referred to as travel positions, hiring non-employee workers can help healthcare organizations fill open slots – even if for only a defined period of time.
While using contract workers can help solve the healthcare worker shortage in the short term, its viability as a long-term solution is questionable, mainly due to cost. In 2022, contract workers in hospitals accounted for 5% of total labor hours, yet they consumed 11% of total labor expenses.8
This is compounded by high turnover rates also being costly. In 2021, the average hospital lost just over $7 million due to employee turnover – and most hospitals have 100% staff turnover every five years.9
To help keep more healthcare employees on staff, some state governments are getting involved. In June of 2022, Governor Gavin Newson signed a bill that, in part, provides retention payments for California healthcare workers employed within 24-hour care facilities.10
Under this bill, eligible full-time employees can get up to $1,500 as a retention payment with eligible part-time employees maxing out at $1,250. These payments were expected to begin as early as March of 2023.11
Here's the good news: according to the March 2023 “Job Openings and Labor Turnover Report” issued by the BLS, things may be improving on the healthcare staffing front. According to this report, healthcare job openings and separations are declining while hires have increased.12
Other Healthcare Staffing News
What else are we seeing in terms of healthcare staffing as the 2023 mid-year approaches? Here are a few of the stories we noticed:
- Some are pushing for continued staffing flexibilities established during the pandemic. Although the COVID-19 public health emergency in Massachusetts will end on May 11, 2023, to align with the date set by the federal government, the governor is filing legislation to extend flexibilities related to healthcare staffing.13
- The staffing issues are too much for some organizations to overcome. Also in Massachusetts, Baystate Health announced that it was closing three urgent care facilities due to “staffing difficulties.”
- Staffing issues are causing unrest among some healthcare workers. In California, healthcare workers at 26 facilities planned to protest and picket throughout the month of March due to being “chronically understaffed in about every department.”14
Where Do We Go from Here?
While all of these healthcare staffing challenges can feel overwhelming at times, we want UMA employer partners to know that we are with you every step of the way. At UMA, we are committed to doing what we can to help solve staffing issues in entry-level allied healthcare roles.
If you’re facing a particular staffing challenge, let us know. We are strongest when we work together, and our team stands ready to work with you.
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Healthcare Occupations. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm
2 Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Medical Assistants. Summary. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-assistants.htm#tab-1
3 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2030. Older Adults. https://health.gov/healthypeople/objectives-and-data/browse-objectives/older-adults
4 National Council on Aging. The Top 10 Most Common Chronic Conditions in Older Adults. https://www.ncoa.org/article/the-top-10-most-common-chronic-conditions-in-older-adults
5 American Hospital Association. AHA Senate Statement on Examining Health Care Workforce Shortages: Where Do We Go From Here? https://www.aha.org/testimony/2023-02-15-aha-senate-statement-examining-health-care-workforce-shortages-where-do-we-go-here
6 Senate Bill 5236. https://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2023-24/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Bills/5236.pdf?q=20230315132524
7 Thompson D. HealthDay. Poll Finds More Americans Worried About Health Care Understaffing. https://consumer.healthday.com/poll-finds-more-americans-worried-about-health-care-understaffing-2659508223.html
8 Kaufman Hall. A Special Workforce Edition of the National Hospital Flash Report. https://www.kaufmanhall.com/insights/research-report/special-workforce-edition-national-hospital-flash-report
9 Becker’s Hospital CFO Report. Hospitals Average 100% Staff Turnover Every 5 Years – Here’s What That Costs. https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/hospitals-average-100-percent-staff-turnover-every-5-years-heres-what-that-costs.html
10 California Legislative Information. Senate Bill No. 184, Chapter 47. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220SB184
11 California Department of Health Care Services. Hospital and Skilled Nursing Facility COVID-19 Worker Retention Payments. https://www.dhcs.ca.gov/Pages/Hospital-and-Skilled-Nursing-Facility-COVID-19-Worker-Retention-Payments.aspx
12 Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job Openings and Labor Turnover – January 2023. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/jolts.pdf
13 Mass.gov. Healey-Driscoll Administration Announces End of COVID-19 Public Health Emergency in Massachusetts. https://www.mass.gov/news/healey-driscoll-administration-announces-end-of-covid-19-public-health-emergency-in-massachusetts
14 Becker’s Hospital Review. Dignity Health Workers to Protest Staffing Levels at 26 California Facilities. https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hr/dignity-health-workers-to-protest-staffing-levels-at-26-california-facilities.html