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Shortage of Healthcare Workers Shifts Focus to Employee Engagement

by Jackie Davis

The healthcare worker shortage is growing at a staggering rate which is shifting the focus of healthcare practices to employee engagement. Not only are caregivers and nurses in short supply, this deficit is reaching medical lab workers and home health workers, impacting every aspect of our healthcare system. The number of people attending medical studies programs is on the decline, and those that do, have a variety of job options available to them. What can we do to recruit, engage, and retain workers in the medical field?

Shortage of Medical Lab Workers

Lab tests play an important part in the medical field, helping to diagnose and monitor patients. Due to a greater number of patients and a growing number of test available, more tests are being sent to the lab, but the shortage of staff to process these samples is leaving medical facilities struggling. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for lab workers has grown 13 percent in the last year, almost double the average for other U.S. occupations.

This shortage of skilled workers stems from an aging workforce and dwindling number of accredited training programs available. The number of programs for those interested in becoming a medical lab worker has decreased by nearly 25 percent since 1990.

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Caregiver and Nurse Retention

In 2018, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) projected that by 2030 there will be a shortage of “between 42,600 and 121,300 clinicians by the end of the next decade.” With fewer students enrolling in medical studies and more career options for the people that do, the healthcare industry is facing a shortage of nurses and caregivers like never before. So, how can healthcare systems attract and retain top talent?

Could technology be the answer? “Even when organizations have the most advanced tech in the world, that doesn’t mean it’s being utilized correctly, or that it actually reduces the burdens that weigh heavily on clinicians and undermine engagement and satisfaction,” said Jeff Hargett, Senior Practice Director, at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center. “Organizations spend their efforts on implementing technology and operationalizing healthcare to the most minute levels to the extent that those who would pursue the field find it detracts from their ability to practice medicine and be a caregiver.”

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Home Healthcare Worker Shortage

According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the U.S. spent over $103 billion on home health last year. In an attempt to keep hospitals for emergency patients, many elderly citizens are being recommended to home healthcare programs. In the next 20 years, the number of elderly patients will double, jumping to 88 million people by 2050. With this aging generation comes employment opportunities for home health workers – the industry is projected to have 7.8 million job openings by 2026.

In coming years, there will be a mass shortage of home health workers which will put an even larger strain on our healthcare system as a whole. Nurses may switch from hospital or practitioner care to home health – increasing the shortage of caregivers and nurses in hospitals. Right now, it’s hard to say what the right step is to get the healthcare system back on track. With shortages of skilled caregivers climbing in every sector, the time to reevaluate the recruiting and retainment structure for healthcare workers is now.

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