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5 Workforce Challenges in Healthcare and How to Avoid Them

workforce challenges in healthcare

5 Workforce Challenges in Healthcare and How to Avoid Them

Despite the increasing reliance on technology, healthcare remains primarily driven by people. Working in healthcare has several advantages: it’s an in-demand field, expected to grow by 13 percent from 2021 to 2031, and the job can be fulfilling as it allows you to create a significant impact in the lives of patients and their families. However, it’s important to note that you may also face certain challenges.

From the healthcare providers such as doctors and nurses to the support staff and administrators ensuring the functionality of complex organizations, the demand for care is surpassing the available workforce, creating a global strain on healthcare systems. The challenges were exacerbated by COVID-19, which not only exposed strained workforces to direct virus threats but also led to extended work hours, postponed vacations, and the urgent need for rapid changes in work processes.

Findings from the 2021 Healthcare CEO Future Pulse indicate that health leaders are actively addressing workforce challenges in healthcare. In short, their focus is on optimizing existing teams while anticipating potential shortages in talent supply. About 67 percent recognize the need for increased attention to talent and resources within their organizations. Interestingly, less than half (43 percent) of executives believe they are currently facing a talent shortage. Instead, healthcare CEOs express greater concern about meeting demand, the impact of new operating models on staff, supporting workforce wellness, and recruiting new talent as the most pressing workforce issues keeping them awake at night.

In addressing the workforce challenges in healthcare in 2024, it’s essential to understand the foundational concept of “what is workforce management.” 

5 Workforce Challenges in Healthcare and How to Avoid Them

The healthcare industry faces numerous workforce challenges that threaten the ability to provide quality care. Successfully navigating these challenges requires proactive planning and strategic initiatives, with an added focus on diversity and inclusion in the workforce.

Staffing Shortages

Healthcare is experiencing severe staffing shortages across roles, including physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals. Reasons for the workforce shortages in healthcare include an aging population requiring more care, experienced staff retiring, and insufficient training pipelines. The Impact of shortage of healthcare workers is significant, affecting the quality and accessibility of healthcare services.

Healthcare organizations can get ahead of shortages by regularly analyzing workforce data and trends to predict gaps. Strategies to offset staff shortages include higher wages, sign-on bonuses, loan forgiveness programs, strategic recruiting, and improved retention efforts.

As per a recent study, 60% of healthcare professionals intend to resign from their jobs in the coming five years, and 15 percent do not foresee remaining in their current roles for more than one year.

Elevated turnover rates place added pressure on the existing staff, affecting both patient care and satisfaction. To tackle this issue, certain healthcare organizations are taking the following measures:

  1. Giving priority to recruitment and retention strategies.
  2. Addressing employees’ workloads and schedules 
  3. Ensuring fair compensation aligned with market rates and the cost of living.
  4. Providing relevant training and resources, such as electronic health record (EHR) training.

These measures aim to mitigate the impact of Healthcare workforce shortage statistics and create a more sustainable and resilient healthcare workforce.

Lack of Critical Skills

While the basics of care delivery remain unchanged, healthcare is evolving rapidly. Staff often lack skills for emerging roles and advanced care delivery methods. Organizations should assess critical skills gaps in workforce management and provide robust training and development programs, including continuing education, stretch assignments, job rotations, and external learning opportunities.

Burnout and Turnover

Along with staffing shortages, the healthcare industry struggles to retain quality talent, leading to high turnover rates. Factors driving turnover include work-life imbalance, lack of engagement, insufficient compensation, and most prominently- burnout. 

As per a study released in 2023, nearly half (49.9 percent) of healthcare professionals indicated they had encountered burnout. This condition can result in 

  1. decreased job satisfaction, 
  2. mental and physical health challenges, 
  3. increased absenteeism, 
  4. decreased productivity, 
  5. lower standards of patient care, 
  6. medical errors, and 
  7. Reduced patient satisfaction.

Leadership should make reducing burnout a top priority by monitoring for warning signs, offering wellness initiatives like counseling, placing limits on hours/schedules, and showing staff appreciation.

Leadership Deficits

Developing strong leadership is vital for healthcare organizations to operate efficiently and deliver exceptional patient care. However, most healthcare environments offer limited leadership training or succession planning. Adding leadership development to training programs and clearly defining paths to organizational leadership roles can counter leadership deficits.

Adapting to Value-Based Care Models

The healthcare industry is transitioning from volume-based to value-based care, reimbursing providers based on patient outcomes versus service quantity. This shift requires new ways of thinking, managing populations versus individuals, improving quality metrics, and managing financial risk. Training staff on the principles of value-based care and sharing successes can help ease the transition, considering the implications of employer of record strategies.

To Conclude

An analysis of EMSI data reveals a concerning projection: there will be a significant shortfall of 3.2 million healthcare workers, by 2026. This underscores the substantial challenge ahead for the healthcare sector, particularly hospitals and health systems.

Hence, meeting the evolving workforce challenges in today’s complex healthcare environment requires strategic workforce planning and engagement. Making staff development a top priority will better position any healthcare organization to deliver outstanding patient care while also attracting and retaining top talent. Monitoring trends, gaps, and struggles and responding with supportive policies and programs is key to overcoming the most pressing workforce issues.

 

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By Robbin Roy

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