What next? Ensure safe, quality care during a staffing crisis

April 6, 2022
April 6, 2022

This blog post is taken from a recent webinar moderated by Caroline Acree, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Clinical Development and featured Trisha Coady, HealthStream’s Senior Vice President and General Manager of Workforce Development Solutions. The webinar focused on what is likely one of the most compelling topics facing healthcare leaders today – the ongoing (and worsening) staffing challenges faced in healthcare and how to leverage technology to help address those shortages and protect your organization’s reputation in the community.

An urgent need for real solutions to staffing issues

Coady began by laying out the current staffing issues being faced by healthcare leaders – a situation that is somewhat grim and has been made worse by a pandemic that has left healthcare organizations facing significant staffing challenges and looking for solutions in places they may not have looked before.

Hospitals faced historically-high turnover in 2021, increasing by 1.7% to 19.5% with nursing seeing an increase of 2.8% for a total of 18.7%. In addition, the American Hospital Association has predicted that hospitals will lose a staggering $54 billion in net income over the course of this year. The number is perhaps not particularly surprising as labor costs have skyrocketed. Coady shared that US hospitals are paying $24 billion more for clinical labor than they were prior to the pandemic. In addition, overtime pay increased by 52% and the use of temporary labor was up by 130%. “This is just not sustainable going forward,” said Coady.

An insufficient nursing pipeline

Making the situation somewhat more daunting is the fact that there is a significant mismatch between the number of graduating nurses and the number of nurses that are retiring or those who are simply choosing to leave the profession. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the issue is that approximately 66,000 qualified applicants were turned away from programs in 2020. Academic institutions cited two contributing factors – a lack of clinical sites and a lack of nursing instructors.

New solutions for a worsening problem

Coady gives surprising advice to healthcare leaders. She encourages them to “lean in” to these changes and embrace new solutions. Coady identified three areas on which to focus.

  • Building a culture of safety and self-efficacy: This starts with ensuring that your staff have the educational tools that they need to provide safe, confident care. In addition to safety benefits, there are other benefits as well. Coady points to the research of Albert Bandura that linked self-efficacy to improved resilience to adversity and stress, healthier lifestyle habits, generally improved employee performance and higher levels of educational achievement.

    The pandemic and staffing shortages have made classroom learning a challenge. “Flexibility and self-sufficiency should really be key components of any education solutions as we move through these changes,” said Coady. HealthStream’s CE Unlimited and the accompanying mobile app puts more than 2,000 CE courses directly in the hands of staff.
  • Embracing turnover and focusing on optimizing new hire time-to-productivity: HealthStream’s recent acquisition of myClinicalExchange – a company that supports clinical placements in healthcare programs across the country will eventually help leaders to focus on bridging the “school to practice” gap. In addition, HealthStream’s Jane® can help organizations use the power of AI to help achieve more rapid onboarding. “Jane makes it possible to rapidly assess current knowledge and critical thinking skills and then develop curated recommendations that are targeted to that learner,” said Coady.
  • Using technology to reduce risk and lessen the burdens of crushing workloads: In her remarks about the use of technology, Coady referenced Atul Gawande’s quote, “Under conditions of complexity, not only are checklists a help, they’re required for success.” HealthStream’s checklist tools help streamline onboarding. “With the complexity we deal with, especially with the flex workforce that we have today, practice standards are going to be crucial in minimizing the time that you spend onboarding,” said Coady. HealthStream’s Checklist can help standardize processes and validate staff compliance with organizational policies.