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Addressing Staffing Issues in Healthcare: 3 Key Strategies


A Mercer consulting study said the United States’ healthcare sector will experience significant worker shortages in the coming years. This problem doesn’t have a simple solution. Healthcare workers have to complete complex training and have specific qualifications. Recruiters can’t just quickly hire without in-depth verification of skill sets. To get positive results, hiring medical staff needs to be a strategic process.

Administering pre-employment assessments, such as attention to detail or computer skills tests, should be a vital part of that strategy.

In this article, we’ll cover:

Reasons Behind Staff Shortages in Healthcare

Staffing issues in healthcare are not new.

More than a decade before the Mercer study, an overview of a 2009 National Academy of Sciences workshop sparked worries about a coming shortage of doctors, nurses, and affiliated medical professionals. Today’s staffing issues are primarily the result of these problems.

  1.     Pandemic challenges

Long hours and the stress of caring for COVID-19 patients and their families have exhausted healthcare workers. We see this especially in the increased number of nurses retiring or leaving the sector. It’s speculated that present staff levels won’t be enough to meet the requirements of 2022 a,nd beyond. With new cases reaching record highs in the U.S., more than a quarter of hospitals in 13 states have experienced critical staffing shortages.

As facilities are being pressured to turn patients away, experts predict the staffing crisis will worsen in the months to come.

  1.     Rejecting fresh graduates

Last year, the New York Times reported that more than 10,000 medical school graduates in the US cannot find work placements. The reason is the narrow criteria of residency programs. A large number of qualified medical professionals are being excluded because of lack of experience and many resort to non-clinical work to pay back their college debt. This is highly frustrating for new graduates and has led to many leaving the profession altogether.

  1.     Economic trends

In the middle of the “Great Resignation,” healthcare is competing with the rest of the US industry sectors to fill open positions. This not only applies to clinical staff, but also to non-clinical roles such as janitorial staff, food servers, and IT professionals.

At the same time, financial crunches are becoming apparent. Rising costs, restrictions on non-emergency procedures and a decrease in patient visits have decreased revenue. Staff overtime costs and supply chain issues have also contributed to the issue. It makes it challenging for healthcare facilities to retain employees.

Mitigating Staffing Issues in Healthcare – Best Practices

Staffing issues in healthcare is a complex topic to solve. However, increased technology, improving working conditions, and addressing education and training can help mitigate staff shortages in healthcare.

Adoption of Technology

It’s critical for healthcare organizations to review workers’ needs and plan accordingly for staffing shortages. Although workforce management challenges in healthcare aren’t new, recent years have increased the pressure.

Surveying patients is an excellent place to start. Each patient has a unique profile, requiring an individualized plan for care. Accessing patient profiles via technology at every point allows healthcare facilities to manage patient medical journeys throughout their stay. As a result, an organization’s labor needs can be identified, and workers can be organized by skill set for more accurate deployment.

It also helps if employees’ availability and daily duties can be easily viewed, which makes the creation, updates and distribution of schedules much easier.

But an increased reliance on technology requires hiring candidates with an aptitude to grow and adapt to demands of technology. It’s helpful to use skills tests such as cognitive ability assessments and computer skills tests to see who among your candidate pool can best handle this technology.

Better Working Conditions

Recent years amplified the weaknesses in healthcare systems’ human resource departments. With healthcare workers experiencing stress and exhaustion, it was revealed how truly overworked they really were. The issue of human resources”surge’ capacity also came under the spotlight. The healthcare system found it difficult to address the needs of patients with health issues unrelated to COVID-19.

Recovering from large scale healthcare emergencies depends on resolving key HR issues. Only after addressing working conditions in healthcare will it be possible to build resilient healthcare systems. This resilience will manifest in facilities that are aligned with the demands of each health crisis.

What would be the most important working conditions in healthcare to address? To avoid recurring staff shortages, more attention must be devoted to better organization and clear communication across departments. This can happen with the right management, which is why it’s important to have team members who will be ready to take on leadership roles when needed.

Until recently, healthcare leadership development has focused mainly on the individual, usually in a competency-based manner. But when faced with uncertainty and unexpected conditions, medical professionals are put under tremendous pressure that is not so easy to simulate, or even imagine, beforehand. Those in leadership roles must be able to swiftly take control in high-pressure situations, organize their way through crises, promote innovation, and manage recovery.

To know who is best suited for such a demanding position, HR managers in healthcare must learn to nurture future leadership abilities. Emphasis should be placed on hiring people capable of dealing with both a crisis and its aftermath.

Administering leadership aptitude tests early during the hiring process can help you find the candidates who can become strong team leaders down the line. Hiring future leaders, in turn, promises an increase in team morale and ensures better management practices.

Education and Training: Strengthening Healthcare Recruiting and Hiring

Recent years have brought us better onboarding processes, which includes providing additional training when necessary. When managers know their team’s strengths and weaknesses, they will know how to best allocate tasks across team members. Assigning responsibilities based on individual skill sets is a proven recipe for efficiency. Otherwise, it will ultimately lead to underperforming teams.

“When you get a match between the skill levels of the staff and the needs of the patients, there’s a higher level of satisfaction on both sides, because the caregiver wants to give the best care possible,” says Mark Heymann, CEO of staffing company UniFocus. “But if you’re in an understaffed situation it’s difficult for that caregiver to do everything they can for the patient. When you’re right-staffed, you know you can deliver the care necessary to drive high levels of satisfaction.”

Those in charge of professional development opportunities for healthcare professionals should think about new skill sets, new ways of acquiring professional competencies, and encouraging teamwork. Reinventing training in healthcare will strengthen the hiring pipeline, decrease the skills gap, and diminish the threat of staffing shortages.

Pre-employment tests can help to determine prospective hires’ skill sets. Test scores will show managers where there is room for improvement, which makes it easier to develop and share resources for professional growth.

Going Forward: Healthcare Aptitude Tests

In recent years, the healthcare sector has dealt with difficult situations that arose from small teams, ineffectual organization, and increased job pressure. As a result, burnout rates rose sharply, leading to a medical worker shortage crisis. But there are steps that can be taken to better prepare for any challenges in the future.

To combat staffing issues in healthcare, hiring managers need to ensure they are bringing the best possible candidates to their organization. Finding just the right fit for an open role helps increase employee retention and patient satisfaction, as well as improve the operating capacity of healthcare facilities in question.

To help determine whether an applicant is a fit for the position, many healthcare employers use pre-employment tests. Some of these assessments include a healthcare aptitude test, attention to detail test, as well as a medical office skills test. These “skillchecks” can help hiring managers better understand applicants’ proficiency at both hard and soft skills. Additionally, integrating a healthcare aptitude test or other pre-employment tests into the hiring process can streamline the hiring process.

It is clear that having more insight into your pool of applicants leads to more informed, data-driven hiring decisions. Contact EmployTest today to learn more about how we can assist your organization in understanding the skillsets of your job applicant pool.