How to Enable Your Workforce During a Staffing Shortage

October 27, 2022 Logan Lee

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an unprecedented shift in healthcare due to emotional exhaustion, higher costs, and outdated technology. These factors, and many more, have created major staffing shortages in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. Over 100,000 registered nurses (RNs) left the profession in 2021, and 90% of nurses report strong consideration for leaving their jobs within the next year. 

These staffing shortages make it difficult for the remaining nurses to do their jobs and meet quality care standards for patients. Healthcare administrators struggle to retain nursing staff, and meet patient needs without going over budget. Below, we'll discuss how the nursing shortage has impacted healthcare administrators and how to use automation strategies to address the nursing shortage.

What Problems Are Healthcare Administrators Facing With Staffing Shortages?

Healthcare staffing shortages throughout the nation have put more pressure on healthcare administrators, CEOs, HR managers, and health systems to increase wages, leading them to invest significant resources in recruiting and retaining staff. Many administrators don't know how to address the nursing shortage without the proper budget, resources, and technology. Hospitals, long-term care facilities, and clinics have not been able to reach pre-pandemic staffing and resource levels, with more than half of all hospitals and health systems projected to continue with negative margins.

Admins face challenges daily to make sure that schedules cover their patient census for the day, which usually means many nurses are working a lot more overtime and experiencing high rates of burnout.

In addition to rising expenses, nurses are also leaving the workforce in excessive numbers, with turnover rates reaching up to 37% and placing more stress on the remaining staff to meet patient needs. Current nurses plan to leave their jobs due to burnout, higher pay alternatives, and high-stress work environments. The nursing shortage in acute and critical care settings has become a constant cycle for administrators of battling high costs while trying to keep staff satisfied and improve the quality of care. 

Many health systems claim that labor stresses have the biggest direct impact on their organizations, even though 90% of surveyed health system leaders have increased compensation to recruit and retain staff. Of these survey respondents, 81% of hospital leaders also said they are attempting to fill staff scheduling gaps with agency labor. In addition, many admins may begin offering better PTO options, more flexible scheduling, and retention bonuses to keep staff happy. Many also started adding sign-on bonuses to recruit new staff. 

Other top issues that healthcare administrators face with labor shortages include:

  • The rising cost of healthcare: Healthcare expenses have elevated significantly from pre-pandemic levels, projecting to surpass 2021 levels by $135 billion in 2022. Labor expenses are also expected to rise by $86 billion, creating more problems for healthcare administrators attempting to reduce operational costs. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, healthcare organizations are still incurring serious losses, contributing to the profound financial toll on hospital executives. National healthcare spending is projected to climb to $6.8 trillion by 2030
  • Recruiting top nursing talent: The need for skilled, qualified nurses is increasingly evident. Healthcare administrators are still struggling to fill the demand for nurses, and with more than half a million RNs projected to retire by the end of 2022, there will be a need for an additional 1.1 million nurses. 
  • Trickle-down effects on residents and patients: Workforce shortages, rising expenses, and supply disruptions can make it difficult for healthcare facilities to maintain minimum staff levels for patient-to-nurse ratios, which can reduce the quality of care and make residents and patients wait longer for the care they need. This can cause facility ratings and patient experience scores to fall behind and reduce reimbursement money — a negative patient experience has a strong connection to low profitability. Constant staffing changes can also have effects on long-term patients who appreciate familiar faces.

How to Avoid the Healthcare Staffing Shortage Crisis 

As a healthcare facility administrator or manager, avoiding nursing shortages is key to keeping your organization successful and your staff and patients happy. 

Due to the competing needs in nursing, making sure your facility stands out can help you recruit and retain top talent and avoid negative margins. For instance, using technology to help you recruit, schedule, and make your staff's day-to-day tasks easier can prevent them from going to a new facility that offers these efficiencies. Implementing better training and staff appreciation practices can also help your nurses feel equipped to take on their day. 

Something as simple as hosting a lunch for your staff or rewarding them with gifts and recognition can go a long way. One survey found that 62% of registered nurses reported higher feelings of depression and sadness than before the pandemic, which shows how important gratitude and appreciation can be. 

Working on your business is just as important as working in the business, especially when it comes to prioritizing and uplifting your staff. Here are some strategies to mitigate healthcare personnel staffing shortages:

  • Improve scheduling: Adapting more efficient scheduling techniques through technology can reduce frustration and burnout among staff and ensure you meet all patient and resident needs. Workforce management software can help you make schedules in advance and use labor forecasting to create more effective schedules and meet demand. Scheduling software also gives staff more control over their calendars with easy request and fill options to maximize productivity. 
  • Nurture employee engagement: Simply publishing your schedules isn't sufficient. Nursing staff should have access to communication tools for swapping shifts, picking up extra shifts, and contacting managers via phone notifications if they need to have a shift covered or opt for a sick day. When nurses can easily help manage their shifts on their mobile devices, it can increase their engagement, help your facility adapt quickly to changes, and ensure you're meeting staff and patient needs. 
  • Act on feedback: Implementing changes according to staff feedback can help increase morale. Encourage staff members to request meetings to discuss goals, accomplishments, and individual needs to help strengthen work relationships and improve retention. 
  • Promote work-life balance: Company culture will always be an important factor in staff retention, particularly in a high-stress profession like nursing. To reduce burnout and turnover, institute facility policies that promote work-life balance and well-being, such as flexible working hours, staff retreats, healthy lifestyle coaching, and de-stress techniques. 
  • Put effort into training: Evaluate and improve your onboarding, orientation, and ongoing education opportunities for your staff. These measures show you care about their skillsets and growth within your organization. You might even put effort into training related to communication skills, as that intervention can help reduce burnout.

Solutions to Nurse Staffing Problems 

Implementing care staffing solutions is the first step to mitigating nursing shortages and high turnover rates. The healthcare landscape involves ever-changing demand, emerging technologies, and the need for facilities to update existing systems to increase efficiency and nurse satisfaction. To reduce labor costs while maintaining high-quality care, your healthcare facility must improve its recruiting, scheduling, and retention methods to establish a sustainable workforce. 

One of the top solutions to short staffing in nursing is integrating an efficient workforce management suite that can handle the needs of your skilled nursing facility, including:

  • Hiring
  • Onboarding
  • Scheduling
  • Attendance
  • Payroll
  • Compliance
  • Reporting
  • Analytics and insights

A centralized platform that helps you and your staff manage schedules and improve communication allows for enhanced employee engagement, workforce compliance, reduced labor costs, and streamlined operations. Increase visibility for managers to maintain efficient schedules and make it easy for nurses to communicate with administrators with the touch of a button. Those improvements can boost employee performance and quality of care. Workforce management solutions help your staff feel supported and reduce frustration by eliminating outdated methods and manual processes that are time-consuming, repetitive, and tedious.

Access Healthcare Workforce Shortage Solutions With Smartlinx

While the healthcare industry will need time to meet the nation's growing needs, implementing and utilizing more efficient technology can help organizations retain staff and take on new patients. At Smartlinx, we know how difficult it can be to maintain a cohesive schedule in the face of a labor shortage. Our workforce management software includes our schedule optimizer to help your healthcare facility:

  • Reduce management and labor costs 
  • Gather data to generate reports and insights
  • Predict employee management and performance
  • Create custom schedules to tailor employee skills to the needs of residents and patients 

Whether your skilled nursing facility needs to take the burden off administration or focus on improving staff retention, Smartlinx has the tools you need. Implement technology automation and ensure your staff has everything they need to meet your quality care standards. Schedule a demo today to learn how we can help you stay ahead of nursing labor shortages. 

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