The Growing Healthcare Labor Shortage
There is no question that COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the healthcare workforce. Hospitals and health systems are battling a labor shortage that industry groups, executives, and analysts do not expect will disappear in 2022.
According to preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the healthcare industry has lost nearly 90,000 workers since March of 2020. The American Nurses Association expects there will be more than 100,000 registered nursing jobs available annually by next year.
Healthcare is also competing with the rest of the U.S. economy to fill non-clinical positions such as cleaning staff, food service workers, and IT. So what can healthcare leaders do to stave off this looming labor crisis?
Overcoming the Impact of the Labor Crisis
Fierce Healthcare, an industry information provider, recently released an article that discusses the trends that will make or break healthcare's labor shortages. The article maintains that some degree of ongoing labor issues is a certainty for the coming year, but analysts say there are key steps provider organizations and policymakers can take to address the crisis for next year and beyond.
They cite five factors that could help mitigate the healthcare industry’s labor shortage in 2022 and beyond:
- Strengthening the pipeline of new healthcare workers - Even before the pandemic, the healthcare industry was not educating enough nurses or doctors. There is a need for policymakers to devote more resources to healthcare workforce education. Partnerships with colleges, universities, and the private sector could build a pipeline from high school to make resources and coursework available to students coming up in their professional careers.
- Exploring less human-intensive technologies and alternative care models - Many health systems are beginning to upskill and train current employees who could take on specific intermediate and less critical care tasks. Additionally, technologies like telemedicine could extend the footprint of the healthcare system in ways that may not be as person-intensive, but still, provide access to care.
- Meeting demand with nimble workforce deployments - Some of the industry’s larger health systems have begun to build their own internal supply of temporary workers. Temporary deployments of the National Guard or government-funded contract workers are helping many healthcare organizations avoid service shutdowns. In addition, state and federal governments have been increasingly open to emergency staffing permissions during times of crisis such as agreements allowing licensed healthcare workers to practice across state lines.
- Addressing workplace culture to improve retention - Hospital workplaces that have primarily catered to the mid-career or Baby Boomer workforces will now need to broaden their offerings to include benefits like student loan forgiveness or nontraditional shift schedules if they want younger workers to stay in the industry.
- Getting a handle on COVID-19 - The largest single factor in 2022’s labor crunch will likely be the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even were the pandemic to stabilize in the upcoming months, the numerous factors playing into the current shortage have stakeholders anticipating a protracted return to normal for the healthcare labor market.
The Recognition Imperative
Never has there been a greater need for recognition and commendation of health care workers. Their self-sacrifice and heroism must be acknowledged and rewarded. Appreciating those who care for others is one of our primary missions. We can help you in your efforts to recognize and retain your most vital asset – your healthcare workforce. We’re here to help. Give us a call at 888-899-7295 or send us an email.