Picture this: a hospital where the wait for care is so long that patients are left to suffer in agony, or a clinic where the nurse-to-patient ratio is so unfavorable that patients are stuck waiting for hours to receive basic care. It sounds like a nightmare, but it’s a reality for many healthcare facilities struggling with the persistent worker shortage crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic intensified the pre-existing healthcare worker shortage around the world. The nursing shortage is becoming an ongoing challenge in many states, fueled by employee burnout, an aging population, and a lack of training. And to this day — despite efforts to alleviate the situation — the healthcare worker shortage of 2022 persists.
In fact, the largest age group of registered nurses (25-34) saw a 5.2 percent decline between May 2020 and May 2021, with the second largest group (35-44) declining faster at 7.4 percent.
To overcome this — and it’s a tall task — hiring managers and leaders in healthcare facilities must focus on attracting talent during a worker shortage.
Factors that Contributed to the Healthcare Worker Shortage of 2022
The nursing workforce is aging, and one-third could reach retirement age in the next 10 to 15 years. This figure includes nurse faculty, which presents its own challenges in training more nurses with fewer resources. The overall quality of these programs and classes may suffer.
The consequences of a lack of nurses in healthcare facilities are significant. The existing workforce is stretched thin, leading to longer shifts, increased stress levels, and eventual burnout. This results in medical errors, overcrowding in emergency rooms, eroded trust in hospital care, and increased patient mortality. Research also indicates that a nurse shortage leads to a 15 percent increase in the risk of infection and higher pediatric readmission rates.
In response, hospitals have increased overtime pay, offered sign-on bonuses, improved benefits packages, and doubled hourly wages to attract healthcare talent. With these rising costs and uncertain future federal support, the healthcare industry faces a significant financial burden. Hospitals are turning to travel nurses to fill the gap, but the financial cost of overreliance on travel nurses is high and jeopardizes patient safety.
Innovative Talent Acquisition Strategies to Attract Healthcare Talent
It’s crucial to consider more strategic approaches beyond higher pay and seasonal demand-supply adjustments to attract talent during a worker shortage. Here are a few places to start:
1. Address Workplace Culture
The National Academy of Medicine identified burnout as a workforce crisis, with at least 40 percent of nurses considering leaving the profession. It’s important to foster a workplace culture that helps protect nurses’ mental health and prioritizes lower burnout rates. Hiring managers must prioritize positive reinforcement and building healthy working relationships.
2. Create a Talent Pipeline
Talent pipelines are one of the most important ways to combat skills shortages. Start by creating a talent pool, which contains information on prospective candidates with the skills required to meet your hiring needs — for the short, medium, and long term.
3. Prioritize Worker Safety
The Joint Commission has implemented Workplace Violence Prevention Standards (2022) to protect healthcare workers and patients. Healthcare facilities must manage safety concerns, monitor data, and educate and train the workforce on how to keep themselves safe, decrease risk, and respond if they are in jeopardy. Additionally, facilities must prioritize having enough competent staff and ensuring healthcare workers’ emotional and psychological safety.
These innovative talent acquisition strategies not only help facilities in attracting healthcare talent but also aids in retaining them. Many healthcare facilities are feeling the weight of attracting talent during a worker shortage, but strategically including immediate and long-term solutions ensures facilities are putting their best foot forward.