In the coming decade, the United States is projected to face significant healthcare staff shortages, with a shortfall of more than 29,400 nurse practitioners expected by 2025.1 Similarly, demand for physicians will outpace supply with a shortage of up to 122,000 physicians in the United States by 2032.2
However, the staff shortage concern is not new. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals and health systems had difficulty keeping pace with the rate of nurses and other healthcare professionals retiring or leaving the profession. To add fuel to the fire, high workload and stress levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic have only worsened the situation. Couple that with the increasing demand to meet the needs of a growing, aging population, it is evident there is a problem that needs addressing.
Hospitals and healthcare organizations must develop strategies to compete for qualified talent and ensure they are adequately staffed to serve their community populations with high-quality care. Furthermore, Hospitals and healthcare organizations will have to properly onboard and efficiently assess the fit for duty of healthcare employees.
In this article, we’ll explore:
- The impact of staffing shortages on the healthcare system and employee health teams
- Things for employers to consider while addressing the staffing gap
- The benefits of fully digitizing the onboarding process
The Impact on the Healthcare System and Employee Health Teams
Organizations have struggled to find sustainable and reliable employees over the past 12–24 months as the great resignation and the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the way workers think about their career. Healthcare has been no exception.
In 2021, an estimated 333,942 U.S. healthcare providers left their jobs, many for pandemic-related causes such as burnout, long hours, heavy patient loads, and personal health concerns, said the report published by the commercial intelligence company Definitive Healthcare.3
This has forced many hospitals and healthcare organizations to reduce and remove services. Most recently, declining revenue and increasing expenses have contributed to a growing number of hospital closures in the U.S. 53%-68% of the nation’s hospitals will end 2022 with their operations in the red versus the 34% reported in 2019, according to industry projections released by Kaufman Hall on behalf of the American Hospital Association (AHA).4 As a result, patient care, frontline staff, and hospital performance will be affected in the near and long term.
Employee health teams typically consist of a small group of clinicians tasked to manage the health and wellness of employees and mitigate on-the-job risks they may face in hospital and/or healthcare settings. Staffing ratios for this group have never been clearly defined or adopted by employers but, often, one employee health professional can be responsible for 1000+ employees. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, employee health teams have been tasked to do more with less while data accuracy has become more important with the continuously changing federal reporting mandates.
While an increase in nursing school enrollments and creative solutions (such as leveraging traveling nurses or certified family nurse practitioners to fill in the physician need) solve the staffing gap issue, another challenge arises. Employee health teams will also have to face the challenge of properly onboarding and efficiently assessing fit for duty of healthcare employees.
Addressing Staff Shortages
To fill the gap of healthcare staff shortages in the U.S., employers need to be prepared to onboard waves of new employees and they must do this quickly. Employers will have to maintain compliance with regulatory agencies, safeguard health data, and automate common processes in order to reduce manual tasks. This reduction of manual tasks allows employee health professionals to focus their time to act on the data, rather than collecting and manipulating it.
As a result, hospital and healthcare organizations need to consider:
- Pre-placement requirements: Efficiently gather and review candidate health information to access fit-for-duty.
- Onboarding of new employees: Easily assign required tasks and activities for completion during the first few weeks a new employee starts.
- Compliance reporting: Consolidate data quickly into formats requested and submit information to regulators in a timely manner to avoid potential citations and fines.
The Benefits of Fully Digitizing the Onboarding Process
Investing in employee health software can help ease the pain of onboarding. Employee health software improves operational efficiency and increases the number of employee health clinics by removing all manual processes. It provides a more complete compliance picture and allows organizations to automate the monitoring of regulatory changes by immediately alerting them to these changes. These automated alerts enable organizations to quickly assess their applicability to the business and make real-time adjustments to maintain compliance without increasing their administrative burden. Furthermore, employee health software strengthens the connection between people and data. Many organizations fall out of compliance because they have a great system on paper but lack the ability to get the information generated from that system.
Employee health software reduces the onboarding time of new candidates, allows for an easier completion of pre-employment screenings, and increases operational efficiencies. Employee Health teams can address the considerations mentioned earlier with software; here are some examples:
- Pre-placement requirements – Pre-employment testing is critical to baseline employee health prior to employment and to access employee readiness for job responsibilities. Employee health software allows recruiters to kick off the pre-employment process through a specialized view and create an account on behalf of a candidate. This auto-triggers an email to the candidate to set up a username and password, and complete pre-employment surveys. Candidates can begin documentation processes and self-schedule an appointment via their mobile device. Employee Health clinicians can review the candidate’s information to determine their fit for duty status, which can be reported back to the recruiter for a full circle workflow.
- Onboarding of new employees – Software can help expedite the onboarding process with automation. Employee health software can automatically assign all required programs and tests to new employees. With a pre-defined checklist of required assessment activities, new employees can quickly complete their required items.
- Compliance reporting – Technology enables the compliance process. Employee health software gives organizations a single source of truth for its data, so they don’t have to spend time pulling the information from multiple sources. And it natively collects all the information needed for compliance reports (i.e., NHSN), regardless of if they are employees, contractors, or others. The powerful report generator allows users to create and share reports that meet the unique requirements of internal and external stakeholders.
With staff shortages and rapid employee onboarding increasing, it is crucial that hospitals and healthcare organizations are fully equipped to handle these changes and prepare for the future landscape of employee healthcare. Investing in employee health software is a huge part of the solution and will not only save time and money in the long run but will also alleviate additional stress and burdens placed on employee health teams.