How many times in your career have you heard the sentence, “Sorry, we are short-staffed today,”? Unfortunately, you’re likely to hear this again. Staff shortages in healthcare facilities are a growing problem, and here’s why…
Ongoing staff shortages in healthcare is a real problem that makes providing patient-centered care a daunting task. As per a recent report by CNN, the United States will need to hire 2.3 million new healthcare workers by 2025 to be able to take care of the aging population qualitatively. And this report only includes doctors, nurses, and nursing assistants. To put it bluntly, without enough caregivers, patients will not receive care.
Lack of Labor Issues Across Professions
Many new healthcare positions remain unfilled for months to even years, especially in rural areas. Even facilities that are staffed appropriately face the challenge of a lack of healthcare workers during a busy season (such as the peak influenza months). It is difficult for managers to balance the supply of workers with the demanding patient load. This includes not only physicians and registered nurses, but also allied health professionals, imaging technologists, dosimetrists, etc. Each profession suffers from a lack of labor issue. And the reality is, there is no easy solution.
Hiring Overseas Healthcare Workers
Many hospitals and organizations have begun recruiting healthcare workers from other countries, providing great bonuses and benefits to find licensed professionals who can take care of their patients safely and compassionately. But, changing requirements and policies for these foreign-trained skilled workers makes it harder for employers to hire them.
Causes of Staff Shortages in Healthcare
According to a study titled, “The 2030 Problem: Caring for Aging Baby Boomers”, there are four main reasons behind the staff shortages in healthcare:
- The aging Baby Boomer population generates a greater need for care.
- The aging healthcare workforce is retiring.
- There is a steady increase in the number of chronic diseases.
- There are limited new graduates to fill open positions.
Simply put, there are not enough programs that graduate skilled workers to meet the current patient demands. As if this were not enough, many new graduates work extra hours throughout the year when they are younger. But, their lifestyles change when they have to take care of a family. Therefore, many healthcare professionals end up choosing non-clinical work for more flexibility in their schedule. This puts a greater shortage of skilled workers on the industry.
How Can Organizations Overcome Staff Shortages in Healthcare?
Since there is little that can be done to lessen the impact of the shortage of new grads, the increased number of retirees, and the influx of Baby Boomer patients, the World Health Organization (WHO) is promoting prevention strategies that foster better health and wellbeing in older age. According to WHO:
“The world is facing a situation without precedent: We soon will have more older people than children and more people at extreme old age than ever before. As both the proportion of older people and the length of life increase throughout the world… global efforts are required to understand and find cures or ways to prevent such age-related diseases as Alzheimer’s disease and frailty and to implement existing knowledge about the prevention and treatment of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.”
The old adage is true; an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. The crisis of staff shortages in healthcare is not going away anytime soon. But, implementing strategies that allow older adults to live independently for as long as possible will help lessen the burden.
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