Hospitals living paycheck to paycheck, unable to make long-term investments


Healthcare added almost 45,000 jobs in November, but many hospitals and health systems will continue to struggle to meet staffing needs, retain top executives and providers, and foster long-term pipelines for talent, Ted Chien, president and CEO of independent consulting firm SullivanCotter, wrote in a Dec. 15 article for Nasdaq.

Hospitals and health systems are living “paycheck to paycheck” and unable to make long-term investments at the height of the current workforce crisis, Mr. Chien said.

The challenge boils down to a healthcare delivery problem, not a demand problem. 

Baby Boomers are the greatest source of care demand on the healthcare system, but are unable to contribute to the provider workforce in the numbers needed to achieve balance, according to Mr. Chien. To compound that issue, burnout is a major factor why “too many” frontline workers have left or plan to exit healthcare, he said. 

Last year, an estimated 333,942 healthcare providers dropped out of the workforce, including about 53,000 nurse practitioners, which has led hospitals to spend more on contract labor and feeling more pressure to consolidate, according to an October report published by Definitive Healthcare.

Long term, a continued lack of healthcare workers would force hospitals to operate in a heightened crisis mode, according to Mr. Chien, depriving non-critical patients of sufficient health prevention and demanding too much of providers who are already overly taxed. 

Mr. Chien highlighted three key areas to tackle the workforce crisis: smarter technology, resilient teams and excellent leadership. 

Technologies that alleviate providers’ administrative burdens will be critical to reduce burnout and keep caregivers focused on patient care, while smarter tech can also forge pipelines for future providers by streamlining clinical experience operations and aligning student placements with existing opportunities.

Building resilient teams begins with competitive pay and robust benefit packages, which fosters trust and demonstrates that a hospital values its staff, according to Mr. Chen. Supporting career growth, including upskilling and redeploying staff when appropriate, empowers employees.

Lastly, capable executive leadership teams, under intense scrutiny from industry stakeholders, must clearly outline their hospital or health system’s strategy and provide the change needed to support their staff. Lack of trust in leaders drives staff out of healthcare, so it is crucial to recruit and retain “modern, strategic thinkers with depth of experience who are prepared to lead,” Mr. Chien wrote. 

Click here to read the full article.

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