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Healthcare’s Biggest Priority for 2022 is People

Healthcare’s Biggest Priority for 2022 is People

This week was Healthcare HR Week, honoring exceptional healthcare HR professionals who “keep the connection” at their organization. Given growing concerns about burnout, the Great Resignation, the continuing pandemic, and shifting patient expectations, connection for people in the healthcare industry has never been more important.

Healthcare is one of the hardest-hit employment sectors of the last two years. In fact, a recent LinkedIn article estimated that nearly 20% of health care workers left their jobs since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and another 35% of nurses have considered or are considering quitting.  

Staffing Issues Impacting Healthcare Organizations 

We know that burnout is a very real concern for all front-line, essential workers, but data suggests healthcare has been exponentially impacted. According to the National Healthcare Database, more than 3 million healthcare employees across 480 healthcare systems saw a 26 point increase in burnout in the last year with 2 in 5 employees suffering from high levels of burnout. Even the best of the best – the top decile of healthcare systems – saw burnout rise by 24 points with 1 in 3 workers saying they are burnt out. 

One of the biggest attributing factors to burnout is staffing shortages. Nurses and caregivers are experiencing unrelenting work, complex cases, new protocols, and increased responsibilities, with many providing emotional support to patients as pandemic protocols limited visitors. It’s been a lot to take on and has driven workers out. Healthcare organizations simply don’t have the staff to care for the influx of patients, and it’s causing those who are sticking around emotional and physical distress. In fact, Perceptyx research found that 2 out of 5 healthcare workers, across more than 1.36 million employees, say there is not enough staff to handle the workload, with resulting negative impacts on engagement and intent to stay with the organization.

And it’s not just the front-line employees and caregivers who are aware of the issue. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, 73% of CEOs expect labor and skill shortages to be the most disrupting factor this year. 

How to Deal with Healthcare Staffing Challenges

Even as the country approaches endemic status, staffing shortages are expected to remain. Healthcare organizations must identify ways to not only recruit new staff but also retain and engage the ones who’ve stayed, especially skilled nurses, doctors, therapists, and assistants. Many organizations are getting creative and finding ways to supplement staff and assist those who need to focus on the mission-critical, top of license skills to protect patient safety and care.  

Employ traveling nurses. Leveraging traveling nurses is one way to address staffing challenges for the short term. Although traveling nurses may not a long-term solution, given that their pay is quite high compared to regular, full-time nurses, they can provide additional surge coverage, as well as the specialized skills needed to provide quality, safe patient care. Travel nurses are typically employed in a facility for a few weeks to a couple of months, bringing relief to overworked staff while also providing a development opportunity to the traveler. 

Although traveling nurses can address staffing challenges, their higher rate of pay can cause resentment among full-time staff members. To alleviate this concern, some hospitals have involved their caregivers in deciding to bring on short-term staff members, providing nurses a voice in the decision. Many organizations also set clear rules that external traveling nurses must not be a former employee, from the same hospital network, or even local to the region, for example.

Create centralized staffing pools. Many healthcare organizations are finding benefit in creating their own float pools of skilled staff who can work in hospitals and facilities throughout their network or by region. This provides a more cost-effective, flexible staffing model for facilities that are understaffed compared to the use of external travelers. Not only does this allow for additional staff to support local front-line workers, but it also provides current staff with the flexibility to travel throughout the organization at a higher rate of pay, helping with the recruitment and retention. (Read how it works for UPMC here.) 

Hire administrative and community health staff. Nurses and doctors are uniquely skilled and licensed, yet they are often bogged down with administrative paperwork and tasks. Healthcare organizations can bring in administrative help or community health workers who can focus on patient paperwork and discharge, allowing nurses and doctors to operate at their top of license, focusing on the work they are uniquely qualified to perform. Other healthcare systems are removing unnecessary tasks or relying on technology to help reduce administrative burdens so that caregivers can focus their time on providing high-quality patient care.

Additionally, many healthcare organizations have employed safety nurses. These are often recently retired nurses who serve as an extra set of hands to help new nurses adapt more quickly while empowering them to handle their patient load. They are a resource for information and knowledge and can answer questions while nurses learn hands-on. 

Innovate delivery of care. Many healthcare organizations are shifting as much of their patient care as they can to virtual visits or even at-home care. For example, one leading healthcare system predicts 85% of healthcare will occur outside of hospitals by 2030. By taking staff out of the hospital and allowing them into patient homes, some are experiencing less stress and greater flexibility while also adapting to evolving patient expectations. This increased flexibility can not only quell burnout and improve retention, but may also result in more positive patient outcomes. 

Partner with academic institutions to grow the staffing pipeline. By reaching out to universities and even high schools, organizations can become top of mind options for future healthcare workers. Some healthcare organizations are even providing scholarships and job shadowing opportunities to college students in the healthcare field. For example, Norton Healthcare offers a high school program to give students a hands-on idea of what a career in healthcare looks like. The organization believes the program will be successful in building its future staffing pipeline. (Check out this article for more information.)

Use data to prioritize actions. The more data healthcare organizations can collect and analyze, the better they will understand their employee experience; improve attraction, engagement, and retention; and make better decisions for their staff. To get this data, healthcare organizations need a robust employee listening program including census, pulse, and lifecycle surveys such as exit, onboarding, and candidate experience. By listening to employees, organizations can better understand what makes their organization a great place to work, why talent is attracted to their organization, why they choose to stay, and what can be done to continuously improve the work experience. 

By understanding what’s most important to employees, organizations can focus on improving those aspects of the work experience, as well as creating a powerful external brand reputation to attract new talent. Rather than focusing on the “Great Resignation,” organizations need to change their language and focus on the “Great Attraction,” recognizing that now is a prime opportunity to attract the new talent needed to achieve business goals. 

Healthcare organizations should view talent acquisition through a marketing lens and focus on refreshing their employer brand. By listening to employees, organizations can better understand their employee value proposition (EVP) and what makes their organization a great place to work. Leverage onboard surveys to understand how new hires are experiencing the organization, gathering real-time insights to identify actions needed to improve early experiences and ensure new hires are engaged, enabled, and thriving.

Analyzing employee sentiment data alongside business metrics can provide even greater value, highlighting where organizations should focus their efforts to improve not only the lives of their employees but also drive better business outcomes, such as the patient experience

Additionally, exit surveys can help organizations determine what went wrong months or years before the employee left. This data not only helps organizations predict turnover but can also explain why attrition is happening, revealing actions organizations can take to improve the employee experience and reduce employee churn, especially for critical roles. 

Focus on the Future

While the healthcare industry works to recover and heal its staff from burnout, stress, and exhaustion, there are things that can be done today to ensure you have the team members needed to achieve your business outcomes. Simply showing appreciation and value to employees goes a long way, as does providing for their well-being, but today’s job market is also proving that more needs to be done. Listening to employees through multiple channels is critical to gather the data needed to make better people decisions. At Perceptyx, we help healthcare organizations leverage their people and business data through our comprehensive employee listening platform to discover their EVP, remove barriers to success, and identify causes of turnover, improving the attraction, engagement, and retention of talent needed to achieve business success. View additional healthcare resources and insights on our website, or reach out to our healthcare experts to learn more.  

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