Essential Tactics to Combat the Staffing Shortage and Empower Your Facilities
Despite rising costs and wider financial challenges in the healthcare industry, 2021 was the first year in over a decade that CEOs in healthcare reported staffing shortages to be of greater concern.
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For rural operators in long-term care (LTC), this has had an outsized impact, forcing many to sell or close facilities. Recent AHCA/NCAL numbers put job openings in skilled nursing at around 240,000, driving home the same message hospital CEOs are reporting in annual polling.
Despite the financial burdens of rising costs, maintaining adequate staff levels remains critical to providing care and there is no substitute for skilled practitioners, technicians, and therapists.
For many operators, their employment agency spend has skyrocketed in response to these systemic shortages, putting greater pressure on the financial lifelines of long-term care facilities and bloating their accounts payables.
The larger issue is there are far more job openings than people to fill them and The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) is weighing how to implement a staffing mandate in the name of improving care in an industry that was decimated by worker burnout due to COVID-19. Even with rate increases for FY2023, the reality remains that attracting RNs, CNAs, therapists, and SNFists is costly and challenging in the current job market.
Finding a Golden Balance That Supports Satisfaction and Promotes Profitability
Recently, the US Surgeon General published a guide for mitigating employee burnout. Here, we can identify a number of action points that can help bolster staff retention and satisfaction in skilled nursing.
- Simplify processes and provide technology that makes your staff’s roles easier, so they can spend more time with residents and less time at their desks. Any needs that are secondary to clinical care should be automated as much as possible.
- Support the holistic health of your workers with purposeful initiatives, including their mental wellbeing, driven by your facilities’ leadership. Workplaces where staff feel unsupported and undervalued see more burnout and people intent on leaving the healthcare industry altogether.
- Build inter-disciplinary care teams. This approach integrates clinical and support staff in an inter-disciplinary team to coordinate and deliver care to patients. It has been shown to improve workflows and is associated with lower burnout among VA health workers who trialed the “teamlet” model.
- Provide resources and opportunities for the professional and personal development of your staff at all levels within your facilities. Take the opportunity to ask staff directly what workflows are burdensome, cultivate a culture of openness, welcoming critical feedback. Workplaces that promote active participation from their staff through open communication often solve problems that directly improve the quality of care and build trust throughout the organization.
Complete Wellbeing Driving Positive Operations
“For business owners and their employees, it is often easier to improve existing conditions than to start anew.”Michael Bauman / CEO / LTC Ally
As demonstrated during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, facilities with inadequate staffing structures faced the greatest burdens. What we know now is that staff bolstered by supportive programs and co-workers looking out for their whole wellbeing are more likely to be able to balance their daily duties and stay the course.
While management has the best perspective when it comes to large operational workflows, boots-on-the-ground staff see the impact of these decisions firsthand and may have practical solutions that aren’t obvious to parties removed from direct clinical care, billing practices, or care coordination.
Building in time for productive dialogues throughout your workforce extends the purpose of your operation to the purpose of your staff, enhancing a sense of cohesion and ownership, and therefore increasing engagement.
These ‘soft skills’, widely discussed in business management literature, should be adopted in healthcare to combat the stagnation that rigid hierarchical structures promote, where less credentialed personnel can feel silenced and avoid raising issues or asking for help. In turn, an engaged, satisfied workforce will be more likely to stay in the industry and feel a greater sense of purpose while doing the essential, yet agreeably challenging, work of caring for some of the most vulnerable people in our population.
While these concepts do not remove the reality of a worker shortage, building an employee-first approach can shore up the staff you do have, empowering them to work within the full scope of their licenses, have their voices heard, and be supported in life and work. The most productive and profitable organizations make room for their people to grow and accommodate their needs, familial, financial, or otherwise.
“Money is not everything in today’s job market. Your employees’ morale, the people they’re working with, and the environment they’re working in have greater value and are conducive to their success, and yours.”Michael Bauman / CEO / LTC Ally