Full-time and part-time nursing staff support critical patient in emergency room.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the critical role that healthcare workers play in our society, but it has also highlighted the risks of workforce instability in healthcare facilities. This instability can have significant budget implications, affect the quality of patient care, and lead to staff burnout and turnover. Furthermore, healthcare facilities face legal and regulatory risks if they fail to maintain a stable workforce. 

Recruitment, retention, employee engagement, training, development, collaboration, and communication can impact workforce stability. Fortunately, there are emerging and innovative solutions that can help healthcare facilities manage their workforce and mitigate the risks associated with instability. 

Understanding Workforce Instability in Healthcare Facilities 

Workforce instability refers to the instability or unpredictability in the availability and retention of staff in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities. This instability is often caused by various factors, including a shortage of skilled workers, lack of employee engagement, burnout, and high staff turnover. 

Causes of Workforce Instability 

According to the American Hospital Association, nursing shortages are a major cause of workforce instability in healthcare facilities. Other contributing factors include the lack of training and development opportunities, inadequate communication and collaboration, and low employee engagement. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the issue, leading to increased burnout and staff turnover rates in healthcare facilities. 

The Risks of Workforce Instability in Healthcare Facilities: 

Workforce instability has a range of negative impacts on healthcare facilities. For example, it can lead to increased costs associated with recruitment, orientation, and training of new staff.  

  • Budget Implications: Staffing shortages and high turnover rates can cause healthcare facilities to incur significant costs in recruiting, orientation, and training new employees. These costs can significantly impact the facility's budget and bottom line. 

  • Quality Patient Care: High turnover rates and low employee engagement can lead to a decline in the quality of patient care. Unstable work environments can make it difficult to maintain quality care standards, potentially leading to negative patient outcomes. 

  • Staff Burnout and Turnover: Workforce instability can increase stress levels and burnout among staff members. This can negatively impact their mental and physical well-being and lead to higher staff turnover rates. 

  • Legal and Regulatory Risks: Workforce instability can also pose legal and regulatory risks for healthcare facilities. For example, high staff turnover rates can lead to non-compliance with regulations requiring minimum staffing ratios, resulting in fines and penalties. 

Addressing Workforce Instability in Healthcare Facilities 

To prevent workforce instability, healthcare facilities must prioritize recruitment, retention, the latent workforce, employee engagement, training, development, collaboration, and communication. These strategies can help create a stable and engaged workforce, leading to improved quality of patient care and reduced costs associated with recruitment and turnover. 

Recruitment and Retention Strategies 

One effective way to prevent workforce instability is to develop recruitment and retention strategies to find and keep qualified staff members. For example, several states have implemented loan forgiveness programs to address the healthcare shortage. Some facilities have partnered with local nursing schools to recruit graduates and offer internship opportunities to students. 

Employee Engagement and Satisfaction 

Employee engagement and satisfaction are key factors in maintaining a stable workforce. Healthcare facilities can improve employee engagement and satisfaction by providing career growth and development opportunities, offering flexible scheduling, and creating a positive work environment. 

Training and Development Opportunities 

Providing training and development opportunities is another effective way to prevent workforce instability. By investing in staff training and development, healthcare facilities can improve employee satisfaction and performance, leading to increased retention rates. Examples of training and development opportunities include on-the-job training, mentorship programs, and continuing education opportunities. 

Collaboration and Communication 

Effective collaboration and communication are essential for preventing workforce instability. Healthcare facilities must create a culture of open communication and collaboration among staff members, which can help prevent misunderstandings and conflicts. Providing staff with regular feedback and recognition can improve morale and foster a sense of belonging and loyalty. 

Accessing a Local, Latent Workforce 

A core opportunity in achieving workforce stability is taking advantage of all available labor across the workforce. By focusing on workers that want to work but for whom full-time employment is not feasible and/or need a more flexible schedule, healthcare facilities gain access to a large labor pool of healthcare professionals ready and eager to work—helping to fill their gap shifts. 

One innovative solution that healthcare facilities can use to address workforce instability is ShiftMed. This workforce solutions provider offers access to a W-2 on-demand marketplace of over 350,000 credentialed nurses and internal resource management technology to centralize staff data and open shifts. By leveraging this marketplace, healthcare facilities can improve recruitment, retention, and staff engagement, leading to a more stable and engaged workforce. 

Stabilize the Foundation with ShiftMed 

Workforce instability is a significant challenge for healthcare facilities, with implications for budgets, quality of patient care, staff burnout and turnover, and legal and regulatory compliance. Healthcare facilities must prioritize workforce stability by developing recruitment and retention strategies, promoting employee engagement and satisfaction, offering training and development opportunities, and fostering collaboration and communication. 

Innovative solutions such as ShiftMedcan help healthcare facilities address workforce instability, leading to a more stable workforce. As healthcare facilities face ongoing challenges in stability, it is essential to consider solutions like ShiftMed to mitigate the risks associated with instability and improve patient outcomes.