Hospitals and health systems cannot afford to lose any more of their crucially important staff due to lack of planning, lack of insight, or lack of proactivity.
Staffing shortages and burnout were familiar to hospitals and health systems pre-pandemic but were dramatically exacerbated by COVID-19. The pandemic solidified the need for hospitals to be able to allocate staff and resources when and where they are needed most. The ongoing COVID-19 surges reinforced the value of investing in long-term, sustainable staffing solutions that provide the visibility hospitals and health systems need to optimize their valuable staffing resources.
Many hospitals and health systems are still relying on manual, disparate staffing strategies and technology which results in inefficient, crisis-minded staffing choices. With 62% of hospitals reporting a nurse vacancy rate higher than 7.5%, according to a 2021 NSI Nursing Solutions report, health systems cannot afford to ignore the need for staffing and retention improvement. The adoption of a more effective staffing model must be top-of-mind for hospital leaders heading into 2022 and beyond.
The key to strategic, effective, painless staffing revolves around achieving enterprise-level transparency and adopting a centralized approach. Centralized staffing, by definition, is a holistic, enterprise-wide approach that fully leverages all staffing resources across the entire organization. Unit leaders and the central staffing office (CSO) need the ability to view staffing at the regional, facility, and service line levels — and various combinations of all three. With these tailored views of current and future staffing needs and gaps, they can determine how staff resources can be fully leveraged. For example, the staffing team can look at critical care staffing needs across hospitals within a certain geographic proximity to determine proactively how intensive care unit staff can be shared effectively by facilities within that region.
While many hospitals still struggle with siloed or unit-based staffing processes, outdated methods of communication, and limited data-driven insights, more and more organizations are adopting the technologies and processes that deliver the required level of transparency. By strategically leveraging their own internal data, for example, and adopting a centralized staffing model, hospitals can gain cross-unit visibility into staffing details and utilize predictive analytics to staff smarter. This not only improves hospital operations and efficiency, but also ensures high quality care for patients, and helps reduce factors contributing to staff burnout.
The Value of Increased Insight for Staffing Leaders
Full transparency across the enterprise is critical when trying to staff effectively. In order to successfully plan for future staffing needs — which eventually become current needs — staffing offices are turning to the utilization of predictive data analytics.
With the application of predictive analytics, CSOs gain accurate, specific insights into future staffing needs across the enterprise, in addition to what it will require to meet those needs with available staff. They are also receiving actionable recommendations about how to best address projected gaps before any resulting problems arise. This foresight reduces the need for desperate, reactive last-minute staffing measures and drives smarter operations. Unit leaders can now achieve more intelligent resource allocation, deliver higher quality of care, and gain valuable time back to spend with their patients; all because of efficient scheduling and improved open shift management from the CSO.
Enterprise-wide, enhanced insight into operations and staffing is a key part of creating a comprehensive, centralized staffing model, but only one part. With those insights in hand, leaders can then take a few key steps to truly advance their organization’s staffing practices.
Keys to Successfully Adopting and Executing Centralized Staffing
Centralized staffing depends on clear, actionable, well-defined processes. Staffing processes, and every person’s role in those processes, must be clear-cut and understood by all to make this approach successful and achieve the many outcomes it can enable. Adopting and deploying a centralized staffing model may look or sound overwhelming at first, but if broken down into phases and key actions to take, hospitals and health system staffing leaders can see immediate improvements without added pain points that sometimes come with other process changes.
Teamwork and creating a more collaborative environment areessential. CSOs must collaborate with each unit and all nurses to create and manage the most efficient schedule and staffing plan. The entire team must work together to resolve staffing issues and fill forecasted gaps as needed. Trust is a huge success factor, and increased transparency can aid in that. When unit leaders gain trust in their CSO, they are more understanding when asked to share staff because they can now more easily see where the needs really are and know they will receive the same support when their unit needs it.
Strategy must become the driving factor behind all staffing decisions — fully replacing reactivity and crisis-driven actions. When staffing and scheduling, CSOs need to be thinking and acting strategically, which must be supported by data-driven intelligence. With expanded organization-wide staffing data made more accessible, CSO teams can now become better problem solvers. Increased data allows them to balance staff across the enterprise, deploy staffing resources quickly, and provide informed guidance to mitigate staffing shortages. So many staffing issues are alleviated when staffing moves from a tactical to a strategic process.
Staffing as an enterprise, not just a unit, is hugely important for successful centralized models. To optimize an organization’s staffing resources and effectively staff across all units, everyone — from unit managers, nursing leaders, and those in the staffing offices — must understand and help meet the needs of each individual unit. With a centralized staffing model and advanced data analytics technology, staffing leaders can minimize floating, an often-frustrating process for nurses, by applying knowledge-based staffing while avoiding understaffing as much as possible. Staffing with a centralized, enterprise-wide approach not only creates a better experience for nurses and other care teams, but also ensures consistent, high-quality care is delivered across the board.
Hospitals and health systems cannot afford to lose any more of their crucially important staff due to lack of planning, lack of insight, or lack of proactivity. By embracing advanced technology and changing the methodology in which they staff from siloed to shared, staffing offices can adequately staff and manage schedules while increasing satisfaction among unit leaders and nurses, all of which drives better work environments, as well as improved care and outcomes for patients.
Bryan Dickerson serves as the senior director of healthcare workforce solutions at Hospital IQ. Bryan has 30 years of experience working in healthcare, specifically with product management, customer experience, and software solutions. At Hospital IQ, Bryan applies his expertise to create the tech solutions that solve the challenges hospital leaders and administrators face with scheduling and staffing.