There is a reason that we do what we do—healthcare staffing can be extremely challenging, especially at a time when the healthcare industry is constantly pressured to cut costs, improve quality, and adapt to healthcare reform. If you are a healthcare employer, chances are you have had difficulty in the past filling certain positions with well qualified healthcare professionals. Here is a look at some of today’s biggest challenges to healthcare staffing, so that you can be better prepared to address these unique challenges in your staffing.
Inherent industry differences
For starters, the healthcare industry is inherently different from most other industries in several ways. Healthcare professionals offer services of diagnosis, care, and healing, and they must do so 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. What is more, healthcare professionals are called to provide care in some of the most dire of circumstances, in both everyday emergencies and natural disasters. The stressful nature of the work and the hours alone can make reliable staffing a major challenge.
The healthcare industry, just as any other industry, must find a way to forecast future demand for professionals in order to best address upcoming needs in the industry. Forecasting demand in the healthcare industry requires surveying population health, analyzing CDC and Google flu data, predicting disease, determining the likelihood of readmissions, and surveying the potential effects of healthcare reform. Ultimately, forecasting demand for healthcare professionals is a science that is still being perfected in order to return accurate volume forecasts.
Balancing core and contingency staff
A provider organization must determine the right numbers of core and contingency staff members to keep on staff. Core staff are those staff members who hold an ongoing full-time commitment within a particular department. Contingency staff, meanwhile, are those staff members who work hours other than those worked by core staff members, such as float nurses and travelers. Overtime worked by core staff is also considered contingency. Ideally, employers will keep a level of core staff on hand that will reduce the need for excessive floating, overtime, or canceled shifts. Yet, there need to be enough contingency staff to cover unexpected needs as they arise.
There is already an acute shortage of physicians in the healthcare industry. But there are quite a few positions within the healthcare industry that are forecasting even more serious shortages in the near future—two of them being primary care physicians and emergency department physicians. Primary care practitioners are becoming especially valuable because healthcare is seeing a major transition from inpatient care to outpatient care as a response to healthcare reform.