Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck this spring, hospital systems have found themselves facing significant hurdles around staffing. These pitfalls range from not being able to find staff willing and able to work, to overstaffing, as patient volume fell due to canceled elective procedures.
“We have seen every type of challenge imaginable,” says Rich Lopez, Vice President of inSight Advisory Services for HealthTrust Workforce Solutions. “Organizations needed to alter their standard work environments and began managing staff from home on levels never before seen.”
On top of that struggle, uncertainty around the virus itself created added challenges. “There has been a significant amount of unease and fear due to all of the unknowns throughout the pandemic,” Lopez says.
These obstacles have required healthcare systems to pivot and develop strategies to adjust to the new normal.
“Many hospital system leaders are not familiar with best-practice methods to redeploy or reduce the workforce appropriately,” explains Lopez. Enter Workforce Solutions. Workforce Solutions is a HealthTrust advisory service designed to help members solve a wide range of workforce issues. “One key aspect of our solution is to provide management of the end-to-end vendor and contingent labor engagement process through our Managed Service Provider (MSP) program,” explains Lopez.
The group serves as a labor consultant, providing numerous services to members, including:
- Advisory services and solutions focused on assessing and optimizing labor management and productivity
- Managed clinical services to help members address specialty needs such as nursing and clinical training programs and credentialing
- Labor management technology, including web-based scheduling, staffing, operational benchmarking and labor productivity modules that provide a comprehensive view of key labor metrics
- Recruiting and staffing models tailored to the member’s individual needs, including nursing, physicians, locum tenens and interim leadership
- Managing the end-to-end vendor and contingent labor engagement process as a natural extension of existing supply chain management and talent acquisition teams
Helping members through uncertain circumstances
Throughout the pandemic, Lopez and his team—together with HealthTrust’s Clinical Advisory Services—assisted members by publishing three guides: Staffing Considerations During a Pandemic, Managing Work-from-Home Staff and Facility Staffing Resource Pools.
The staffing considerations guide, for instance, encourages member organizations to ask a series of questions to better understand their staffing needs and challenges. These include:
- What types of patients and symptoms will be most likely to increase in number?
- What clinical, ancillary, support and administrative personnel are needed to provide care to pandemic patients and to provide support to the caregivers?
- What clinical and administrative personnel are available?
The guide then provides step-by-step instructions to answer those questions.
“We also offer labor management assessments that define variable departmental staffing targets in order to offer guidance on staffing levels as patient volume increases or decreases,” Lopez said. The services also include recruiting. “We spent a significant amount of time helping recruit contract staff to fill open staffing needs at member hospitals.”
When it comes to staffing challenges, Lopez explains, “One of our most common recommendations is for healthcare organizations to build a flexible workforce as a key strategy, so the facility can quickly respond to known seasonal fluctuations as well as unforeseen circumstances.”
That means staffing each department or service in the hospital with full-time, part-time and contingent labor, as appropriate. “This allows departmental and senior leadership to be able to respond more quickly to ever-changing staffing needs,” Lopez adds.