The worst of the pandemic may be behind us, but the healthcare community continues to feel its impact on staffing. Of course, COVID-19 did not incite the healthcare staffing crisis, but it most certainly fanned the flames by adding to the stress on providers who were already stretched thin. As a result, providers are retiring in higher-than-expected numbers, switching jobs, or leaving the profession altogether. In an August 2022 MGMA STAT poll, 40% of medical practice managers said they had seen a physician retire early or leave the practice as a result of burnout. This figure is up from a similar STAT poll asked of managers a year ago, in which 33% said they had seen a physician leave due to burnout.
While the reasons for the crisis are complex, the fact remains that healthcare organizations across the nation are facing healthcare staffing shortages of all types. In the most recent American College of Healthcare Executives’ annual survey, respondents cited staffing challenges as their number one concern, replacing financial challenges for the first time since 2004. Nurses, technicians, and therapists were the areas of most pressing concern, followed by primary care physicians and specialty physicians. Another MGMA STAT poll from September 2022, found 58% of medical practice managers say staffing is the biggest concern heading into 2023.
The industry is in the midst of a crisis, and yet each organization is battling it alone — competing with each other to attract and retain talent. What strategies are working to address staffing shortages? And what can you do at your organization to ease the pressure on the staff you do have? Keep reading for 5 ideas to lessen the impact of the staffing shortage on your organization.
While throwing money at the problem may not seem like the most creative approach, there are ways to creatively use compensation to make physician jobs more attractive. Many organizations are offering flexible recruitment bonuses to be used for loan repayment, housing assistance, or other needs. Of course, compensation can also be used to persuade your current staff to stay. Physicians may respond to retention bonuses that reward the additional work and stress they’ve taken on in recent years.
In a recent JPS survey, physicians overwhelmingly ranked “increased compensation” first when asked what would motivate them to stay with their organization for another 5 or more years. So, while healthcare providers certainly care about more than compensation, it still plays a significant role in their recruitment and retention.
One crucial aspect to recruiting and retaining healthcare workers is lessening the job’s negative impact on well-being. The pandemic caused workers in every industry to reevaluate the way they were spending their time, and in many cases, people came to the realization that their jobs were not bringing happiness or fulfillment. This was especially true in the healthcare industry, where the stress of the pandemic was disproportionately felt, causing healthcare providers of all types to seek jobs with lower stress and a better work-life balance.
Organizations must find ways to offer exactly this — less stress and more balance. In the aforementioned JPS survey, the second most common response to the question “What would motivate you to stay with your employer for the next 5 years?” was “the ability to work part-time or have a flexible schedule.” From 4-day work weeks and flexible schedules to work-from-home options and unlimited paid time off, employees increasingly expect their employers to offer benefits that promote work-life balance.
When Possible, Outsource
Study after study points to administrative burdens as a primary cause of physician burnout. What administrative tasks are your physicians doing that could be outsourced or delegated? Of course, the salary of a scribe or medical transcriptionist may not be in the current budget, but if it can prevent one or more physicians from leaving, it will be well worth it compared to the cost of a physician vacancy. What other burdensome tasks could be outsourced or delegated to improve the well-being of your staff?
Technology provides one of the most tangible ways of addressing the staffing crisis and offers a multitude of options for relieving staff at every level. Perhaps making the greatest impact is telehealth technology, which allows physicians and APPs to treat patients from anywhere, partner with providers in other locations, and see more patients with less time between appointments.
Technology may also be used to speed onboarding, training, or CME. Software that logs patients’ questions and requests may decrease the amount of time physicians spend responding to individual patient calls. Organizations can also leverage their websites and social media channels to address frequently asked questions and provide patient education on common topics such as vaccines and the community’s spread of flu and other viruses. Even small optimizations like this can make a big difference.
Identify a Recruitment Partner
Organizations facing staffing shortages also need a permanent physician recruitment partner to serve as an extension of your team. A full-service physician recruitment firm can help you create a recruitment timeline based on your medical staffing plan and provide market data on time-to-fill for various physician specialties. Recruiters may even have creative alternatives for those positions that seem impossible to fill.
Staffing shortages are impacting organizations of all types, sizes, and locations. In order to lessen the negative impact on your organization, it’s critical that you consider employing some of the ideas listed here — financial incentives, lifestyle improvements, outsourcing, technology, and a recruitment partner. If you are ready to move forward with the latter, the team at Jackson Physician Search can offer powerful expertise and an action plan to help you meet your staffing goals. Contact us today.