One of the most significant challenges that hospitals have faced for years is the shortage of skilled workers. This, in turn, has made recruiting extremely competitive — if hospitals are all vying for the same candidates in the same labor pool, whoever offers the most will win. So, it's no wonder the industry average time to fill positions is 49 days.
But healthcare workforce solutions are constantly being developed to combat, or at least mitigate, industry-wide challenges. Let's find out more about the current state of healthcare staffing in 2024, examine some of the top issues that hospitals face, and explore some solutions.
1. Fluctuating reliance on travel staff
It's no secret that the industry as a whole has seen increasing reliance on contingent and travel staff over the past few years. They provide high levels of flexibility, can be called upon whenever needed, possess specialized skills, and can cover staff shortages; all of which comes at a premium price.
For many professionals, that price is a little too premium, to the point that it becomes exploitative. The American Hospital Association (AHA) underscores this when they state, "High reliance on contract or travel staff prevents hospitals and health systems from investing those costs into their existing employees, leading to low morale and high turnover, which further exacerbates the challenges hospitals and health systems have been facing."
In a letter to the White House, the AHA even raised concerns that "various nurse and other direct care staffing agencies have been exploiting the severe shortage of health care personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic by charging uniformly high prices in a manner that suggests widespread coordination and abuse of market position."
However, it seems that things are looking up for full-time employees. Healthcare organizations recognize the over reliance on travel staff and have begun weaning themselves off of it. They have started doubling down on their full-time staff, increasing salaries by up to 10-20% to ensure employee satisfaction in the face of high inflation.
Make no mistake, the need for contingent staff is going nowhere, underscoring the importance of staffing technology solutions. But it does seem that as we head into 2024, the severity and urgency of those needs have become dampened in comparison to recent years.
2. Rising need for custom staffing solutions
As the landscape shifts, so too does each company's individual needs. The industry itself has a unique complexity, which is even further exacerbated within each organization; a staffing strategy that works for one may not work for another. Here are a few reasons why:
- Regulatory compliance: Having a custom staffing expert at your disposal will help you avoid legal penalties and ensure each individual staff member meets all certification and qualification requirements.
- Patient-centric care models: Ultimately, our jobs are to ensure patients are cared for in the most effective, satisfactory, and efficient ways possible. Custom staffing solutions can allow your organization to meet high demand for specialized care, ensure your workforce is highly technically trained, and can even help you lean into remote care models.
- Flexibility: Custom staffing solutions can also help you scale up your business model by ensuring all of your needs are covered at any given moment — seasonal fluctuations, mass casualty events, pandemics, etc. Whether you need specialized care or immediate assistance with patient volume influx, there are resources at your disposal.
3. Growing emphasis on at-home care
Healthcare models have already shifted drastically, with remote/at-home care becoming ubiquitous. This is partially due to the pandemic making people accustomed to it, but also because of a massive aging population in the US. Recently, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reported that the US population will grow to ~361 Million by 2032. From those numbers, it is estimated that around 73 Million elderly adults will require constant care. With staffing shortages already in full swing and increasing demand for resources on the horizon, we can expect to see an even bigger shift toward at-home care.
And that's not even taking into account the other benefits of remote care models:
- Accessible healthcare: Remote care has done wonders for communities that may not even have access to quality care. People who live in rural communities, for instance, are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, and stroke than urban counterparts, according to the CDC. Telehealth options have improved communication, accessibility, and monitoring capabilities for those communities.
- Preventative care: Telehealth has also helped patients receive preventative care as well as therapy while at home without taking up critical hospital resources.
- Patient satisfaction: The vast majority of telehealth patients are satisfied with their treatment — even more so than in-person visits. This may be in part due to the fact that they are more comfortable in their own homes when receiving it, but with an industry focus on patient satisfaction, this aspect cannot be ignored.
Pivoting to any type of new model, remote included, can be stressful; but it can also be new and exciting. If you're running into speed bumps or just don't know where to start, consider enlisting the help of advisory services to ensure new ventures are successful and scalable for the long haul.
4. Inflation and rising overhead costs
The high cost of doing business never seems to cease in the healthcare world, and so it will remain as we head into 2024. Economic pressures such as inflation have put quite a dent in the best laid plans of hospitals and other facilities.
A recent report by Kaufman Hall and Syntellis found that expenses temporarily declined, but are still in fluctuation due to inflation and the cost of labor. Additional cost factors include the rising cost of supplies and new technologies, as well as a number of states deciding to rescind Medicaid eligibility.
The fact of the matter is that costs will continue to rise, largely due to staffing and recruiting efforts, so it is imperative that organizations find the right way to contain costs without sacrificing integrity of care.
HWL Works to Contain Labor Costs
HWL has helped organizations just like yours develop winning healthcare recruitment strategies that have tangible impacts on the bottom line. Whether through developing an internal agency, VMS, or MSP services, or advisory services, our team of seasoned professionals is ready to help you navigate the complexities of workforce management and provide tailored advice that aligns with your unique goals and objectives.
To learn more about how you can start implementing smarter strategies, get in touch today.