Healthcare staffing is currently in an era it has never really had to face. States are calling medical staff out of retirement, while medical students are graduating months early to meet the elevated needs of an overtaxed medical system. While the current pandemic crisis is not an HR problem, HR teams can still learn from the current moment to better meet the needs of healthcare staffing as we move forward into the future.
How can talent acquisition teams ensure their healthcare staffing provides a strong workforce in the healthcare industry? Start by avoiding the following common staffing mistakes.
Mistake #1: Running at Capacity
The first mistake is overtaxing healthcare facilities during “normal” times by running a lean staff. The need to maintain adequate staffing levels at hospitals has never been more apparent than during the current public health crisis, in which an ever-increasing influx of patients is exceeding hospital capacities in waves nationwide. While most hospitals have plans for times of crisis, operating during normal levels of care on a shoestring can leave the system open to vulnerabilities currently on display.
Keeping your staff small can lead to overexertion, stress, and mistakes—thus decreasing the quality of care and patient satisfaction, which are two important markers of a healthcare organization’s success. A thin staff that has to cover more patients with less support also leads to higher turnover rates and a continual need to staff positions with new, less-experienced candidates.
Healthcare workers with specialized knowledge are a scarce resource; when you find qualified hires, you want to keep them happy. Operating with less staff is a short-sighted, budget-saving strategy that ultimately can hurt the organization and its patient care services in the long run. The better practice is to keep staffing at an adequate level to ensure employee and patient satisfaction alike, and to have a built-in buffer in the system for times of emergency. The staff of a healthcare facility is the lifeblood of the organization that can literally mean life or death for patients.
Mistake #2: Inadequate Training
In addition to having adequately staffed facilities, providing a good level of support to each and every staff member is critical. The second mistake lies in assuming a highly skilled staff requires less on-the-job training (and mistake #1 directly relates to mistake #2). Higher turnover rates can leave healthcare facilities with a less experienced staff and a continual need for more onboarding and training of new hires. While most healthcare positions require specialized skills, talent acquisition shouldn’t underestimate the need for continual training support for this specialized staff.
Even if a new hire has been in the industry for a while, each healthcare facility will have differences in how the basic day-to-day practices work and will need to establish the guidelines for new staff. Each facility will also have a different workplace culture, so it's important to foster good communication between new hires and seasoned employees and to pinpoint good communicators as mentors who will help train new staff.
Ensuring that new hires feel adequately supported as they acclimate to a new job can decrease turnover rates, and a system that welcomes and supports new hires into the fold will operate more efficiently—with the end result of better overall care for patients.
Mistake #3: Not Keeping Tabs on Competition
There is a talent shortage in the healthcare industry, due to an aging population and an increasing demand for healthcare services. This will be true for years to come—not simply in the current moment. It’s, therefore, all the more important to ensure your staffing positions provide a competitive salary and benefits, and to understand who else may poach qualified candidates. Staying ahead of the competition also means you need to keep your hiring as quick and seamless as possible. Investing in technology that can streamline your process will help you stay competitive and staff vacancies efficiently, in order to meet the needs of patient care and offer quality hires a job before the competition does.