Closing Healthcare Staffing Gaps with Organizational Design
Closing Healthcare Staffing Gaps with Organizational Design
Organizational design, upskilling and reskilling, and strategic workforce planning can help HR leaders seeking to close the healthcare gap in their workforce.
June 8, 2023
Healthcare leaders face unprecedented challenges: New economic models, heightened competition, increased regulatory and patient expectations, and more. But perhaps their most pressing need is to be able to attract, retain, and develop the talent needed to address these pressures.
Every month for two years and counting, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported more job openings than people looking to fill them.
Nearly 14% of all Americans — almost 1 of every 7 workers — are in healthcare. At the same time, many workers are leaving the field early, either by retiring or hopping to other industries.
And that makes healthcare especially vulnerable to broader shifts in the aging population and the economy. To meet the growing demand for healthcare services, organizations and their talent must be more agile and adaptable than ever.
Although shortages are affecting all positions, hospitals, clinics, and other providers see the most significant staffing shortages among nurses. Turnover rates range from 50-70%, and the U.S. healthcare workforce is projected to be short 2.1 million nursing professionals over the next three years.
There simply aren’t enough new graduates available to fill all those nursing roles.
And the problem is bigger than just supply. It’s also about costs. One of the business hospital networks in New York is paying contract nurses almost $200 per hour, and even they can’t fill all their open positions.
Reskilling may help. In programs like Amazon’s Career Choices, hourly logistics workers are being trained to transition into healthcare. Over time, reskilling and upskilling programs could help prepare another 500,000 or so nursing professionals, but that still leaves a gap in the nursing workforce.
The most successful healthcare organizations will look for creative ways to adapt — keeping their most in-demand talent engaged and satisfied at work while also figuring out how to get the most value from them.
Innovative employers will look for ways to redesign roles and shift job duties in ways that make the most of highly trained talent, such as nurses and other clinicians. That will enable those organizations to reshape their workforce to meet market demands and changing healthcare strategies.
Optimizing clinical roles
Designing care differently can increase capacity without putting additional strains on highly trained talent. Carefully designed patient experiences ensure the right roles can be optimized at every stage of care.
One key to this is to have clinicians exclusively devote their time to the core functions they’re trained and certified in. That’s a change from how many organizations operate now.
Nursing staff only spend about 30% of their time actually nursing. The rest of their time often involves routine record-keeping, cleaning, searching for medications, scheduling other healthcare workers, and other tasks requiring few or no clinical skills.
This leaves nurses feeling burdened and, too often, burnt out. They entered the field to care for patients, but much of their time isn’t spent in patient care.
Nurses, doctors, and other clinicians who spend more time focusing on patient care feel less burnout and fatigue. They see more patients, easing backlogs and reducing wait times. Patient experiences and outcomes improve dramatically. It’s a win for everyone involved.
But focusing clinicians this way is likely to leave many providers with significant gaps. After all, those other functions still have to be carried out. Enter organizational design.
Addressing the healthcare workforce gap
Organizational design can help companies attract and retain the talent they need to compete and thrive in today’s healthcare marketplace.
By identifying gaps in your healthcare workforce — including where you need new or additional talent to perform tasks that nurses or other clinicians may have been doing at the expense of patient care — you can start identifying roles to fill with nonclinical talent.
Consider HEDIS, for example. Part of sustainable success is exceptional reporting practices. The Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) tracks 90 metrics across six domains of care, with more than 90% of healthcare plans using HEDIS to measure outcomes and evaluate performance.
These reporting requirements can be a drain on clinicians; more than one-third cite this type of work as a source of frustration, contributing to lower levels of job satisfaction. Consider removing these burdens from your most valuable staff by redesigning and reassigning as much of this type of work as possible.
As you define and design new roles and create new career paths, you’ll find opportunities to upskill and reskill the talent you have, plus new employees from other fields.
Upskilling and reskilling to fill healthcare skills gaps
Workforce changes due to rapid disruptions in growth, change, technology, and competition mean that “hiring your way out” is no longer an option.
With traditional healthcare talent sources completely tapped out, your next hires are more likely to be a combination of:
Skills maps, for example, can be used to identify internal candidates for additional training, mentorship, and upskilling. That allows you to fill many of your skills gaps and create a workforce that’s just as invested in you as you are in them by offering development opportunities and upward mobility.
PwC’s Health Research Institute reports that healthcare workers are more likely to stay with their current employers when offered training in new technologies. Training and professional development opportunities are also top priorities of millennial and Gen Z workers, who by 2025 will make up the majority of the workforce.
So how do you plan for tomorrow and beyond while ensuring success today?
How do you know what skills they have, what skills they want, and what skills they need to support your business objectives?Workforce forecasting is a great way to start the process in planning for the future of your work.
Healthcare workforce planning to address skills gaps.
Operational workforce planning is reactive in nature, and focuses only on meeting immediate demands, often with little consideration for how the organization will meet future objectives. It’s a “putting out fires” approach that can, paradoxically, lead to worker burnout.
Strategic workforce planning is more comprehensive and proactive. It’s a data-driven process of identifying organizational needs in terms of the workforce size, type, experience, knowledge, and skills, based on short and long-term objectives.
Strategic workforce planning includes workforce forecasting for future work needs with intergraded credentialing and issuing. This allows you to analyze your current talent pool to determine the career paths that will produce the workforce you need for the future, and to build out a holistic workforce plan to identify future skills gaps, allowing you to fix them before you’re scrambling to cover shifts and discovering you don’t have the necessary know-how on staff.
Workforce analytics and data-driven insights allow you to make smart, future-focused decisions.
A talent investment perspective
Moving away from outdated processes and future-proofing your talent management strategies is a major challenge. Workforce can help HR and L&D teams work faster and more efficiently.
Some of the keys to success are identifying gaps in your current and future workforce needs, defining critical skill needs, and crafting career development pathways for your talent. With predictive insights and real-time skills data, you can optimize how you deploy time and money for recruiting, credentialing, retention, training, and other critical activities.
Close the gap in care now.
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