Industry Insights in Healthcare

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Just as it’s important for patients to find healthcare providers they can trust, UMA believes in offering trustworthy information to the decision-makers who help shape this industry. Our contributors to this blog carefully cover a range of topics centered around workforce training solutions in the healthcare field.

Staffing Challenges in the Healthcare Space

In: Industry Insights

Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2023 @ 3:55pm

Staffing Challenges in the Healthcare Space

Fourteen percent of U.S. workers are employed by the healthcare industry, making this one of the largest sectors nationwide, in addition to being one of the fastest growing.1 While this may be good news for job seekers who are looking for an open position, many organizations in the healthcare space are facing challenges when it comes to attracting and keeping staff. Identifying these challenges – and the driving forces behind them – can help healthcare organizations find ways to overcome staffing-related problems. With that goal in mind, here are a few of the common staffing issues in healthcare today.

Contract Workers Replacing Employed Staff

A 2022 survey of 1,005 healthcare facilities found that 85% were dealing with a shortage of workers in allied health roles.2 As a result, 59% turned to temporary workers to help fill the gap. Although this is one solution to the healthcare worker shortage, it can also be a costly one.

For example, in the face of labor shortages, many hospitals have resorted to filling employee vacancies with contract workers, but the wages for contract healthcare workers are often significantly higher.3 This amount can add up quickly, especially for organizations or facilities that employ hundreds if not thousands of healthcare workers.

One could argue that employers are saving money by not having to pay the typical benefits associated with employed staff, some of which include expenses for their medical insurance, taxes, paid time off, and more. Certainly, this can be a short-term benefit, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; however, the trade-off is that contract workers might not be as loyal as a worker employed by the healthcare facility.4 And reduced loyalty can lead to high turnover rates.

High Turnover Rates

Job turnover can be caused by any number of reasons. A worker may retire, get sick, or die. Or they may leave their job to work elsewhere, whether due to receiving a higher rate of pay, more benefits, greater flexibility, or some other “perk” they deem as being worth the switch.

Healthcare turnover rates increased during the initial stages of the pandemic but have largely returned to their normal rates – except for individuals working in long-term care roles, those in home health aide and assistant positions, workers with children under the age of five (with this rate being higher for female healthcare workers), and for workers in minority groups.5

High turnover rates can cause a variety of issues for healthcare employers. Not only does it make it harder to tend to all patients effectively and swiftly due to working with a higher number of open positions, but there are financial consequences as well. Replacing a worker can cost up to two times that position’s annual salary.6 If your organization is doing this regularly, it can dramatically impact your bottom line.

Widespread Burnout

Burnout has long been an issue in healthcare, even before the pandemic. For instance, a 2019 study in the Annals of Family Medicine reported that 53% of the physicians and staff at two San Francisco health systems felt burned out.7

Research published in 2021 adds that, although research and literature on burnout in healthcare has seen a six-fold increase in the previous two decades, this increase has seen “an even more rapid rise” during the past few years.8 The literature cites a variety of workplace factors that can influence burnout, such as those relating to environment, culture, scheduling, and access to peer support. Individual factors cited as contributing to burnout include not practicing self-care, poor work-life balance, and fewer supportive relationships.

Because so many variables can be at play with job burnout, there is no one-size-fits-all solution that will work for every healthcare organization. This can create an additional challenge, sometimes requiring a more personalized approach.

Recruitment Challenges

Healthcare employers today are also facing numerous recruitment challenges. Among them are:9

  • A lack of access to talent acquisition experts, which affects 58% of healthcare companies even though 94% expect to increase new hires
  • Poor communication with candidates through the recruitment process, with 40% of prospects “dropping off” during the application phase
  • Not utilizing automation during all stages of recruitment, from marketing to screening and interviewing to onboarding
  • Trouble balancing hiring efficiency with candidate quality or trying to find the right talent for the position as quickly as possible

Just as burnout is multi-faceted, so too is recruitment since several factors can impact whether a healthcare professional pursues a role with a specific employer. Among them are pay, health insurance benefits, paid time off, educational incentives, growth opportunities, and any other perceived advantages offered by that organization or facility. So, again, recruitment-related challenges may require a more comprehensive approach.

Failed Retention Initiatives

Some healthcare organizations also struggle to retain their workers. Research suggests that this challenge may be even greater in rural and underserved areas, initially attracting workers with incentives but finding it hard to keep employees once their obligations are fulfilled.10

Two of the main obstacles cited for healthcare worker retention include:11

  • Changes in industry structure and regulation, which increase employee stress
  • Discontent and disengagement, particularly when it is ignored by employers

When these challenges exist, healthcare employers may find it harder to keep their staff.

The Solution to These Top Healthcare Staffing Challenges?

Each healthcare staffing issue requires its own solution. Since each issue can also be fairly complex, the solutions must be equally as intricate.

Ultimate Medical Academy can assist by helping healthcare agencies identify and overcome their biggest staffing obstacles. This includes connecting you with individuals trained in allied healthcare disciplines who are qualified to fill your open positions.

In the meantime, we’ve also dedicated a large portion of this six-part series to addressing these challenges. But first, we’d like to talk a little more about how the increase in contract workers is impacting healthcare employers. So, we’ll discuss that next.

1 United States Census Bureau. Who Are Our Health Care Workers?

2 GlobeNewswire. AMN Healthcare Survey: 85% of Healthcare Facilities Face Shortages of Allied Healthcare Professionals.

3 KaufmanHall. The Financial Effects of Hospital Dislocation.

4 U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Difference Between Contract, Part-Time and Full-Time Workers.

5 Frogner BK, Dill JS. Tracking Turnover Among Health Care Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Cross-Sectional Study. JAMA Health Forum.

6 Gallup. This Fixable Problem Costs U.S. Businesses $1 Trillion.

7 Willard-Grace R et al. Burnout and Health Care Workforce Turnover. Annals of Family Medicine.

8 Rehder, K, Adair KC, Sexton JB. The Science of Health Care Worker Burnout: Assessing and Improving Health Care Worker Well-Being. Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine.

9 Aptitude Research. New Research: Key Recruitment Challenges in Healthcare.

10 Esu EB et al. Interventions for Improving Attraction and Retention of Health Workers in Rural and Underserved Areas: A Systematic Review of Systematic Reviews. Journal of Public Health.

11 Monster. Diagnosing and Treating the Healthcare Employee Retention Problem.

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