By Jackie Larson, President, Avantas
One of the most critical issues facing provider organizations is the current labor shortage of healthcare professionals and its projected increase.
This has escalated recruitment and retention efforts of healthcare providers in the growing competitive climate. While strategizing how to recruit and retain a quality workforce, leadership should also focus on how to optimize the staff they currently have to keep up with the rising patient demand.
The growing patient demand and aging nurse workforce has resulted in a heavy workload in patient care facilities. This has left many nurses feeling burned out and dissatisfied with their work, leading some to consider leaving the profession in hopes of a better work/life balance – further perpetuating the nursing shortage.
Staffing and scheduling practices should not be overlooked when considering how to leverage your workforce while controlling costs. Disregarding staffing and scheduling habits can impact staff morale, turnover rates, and patient care – all of which ultimately effect an organization’s bottom line.
Employees often list staffing and scheduling issues as one of the top areas that greatly impacts their job satisfaction. Scheduling staff in provider organizations can be a complicated process. Taking into account fluctuating patient volumes, scheduling staff to patient demand is time-consuming and involves a fair amount of guesswork without the proper tools. However, there are solutions that can help provider organizations improve their scheduling issues and staff utilization.
Still gaining traction in healthcare, technology exists that can accurately forecast patient demand and staffing needs. Automated scheduling software that is driven by predictive analytics can give managers a clear view of staffing needs that is 97 percent accurate by 30 days before the start of the shift. Factoring in historical census data and other inputs, predictive analytics forecasts staffing needs up to 120 days in advance of the shift.
This accurate projection of needs allows managers to build better schedules sooner, reducing instances of floating, cancellations or frequent overtime – all factors that influence staff morale and are within an employer’s realm of control.
Staff morale is a complex issue. While there are many factors that play into an employee’s job satisfaction, there are items an employer can focus on to ensure their scheduling practices are not fueling any dissatisfaction among staff. Frequent instances of cancellations or floating, or a unit running short, pushing staff into extra or overtime are major staff dissatisfiers – burning them out and leading them to seek other employment options, either at a competitor or outside of the profession.
Already at an increased risk for burnout due to the physical and emotional demands of the job, special attention should be given to nurses to ensure they feel supported and have access to the resources they need.
With a growing number of challenges in healthcare and increased competition for providers, hospital leadership should pay special attention to their staffing and scheduling practices. With the ability to improve staff satisfaction and produce significant time and cost savings, predictive analytics offers healthcare organizations a leg up on staff utilization. Effectively leveraging your staff is a valuable approach to optimizing your workforce while providing quality, efficient care.