Addressing & Overcoming Global Staffing Shortages in Healthcare Facilities

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Team surgeon at work in operating room.

Photo credit: Depositphotos

By Matthew Keahey, National Vice President of Operations, Medxcel

Reaching and retaining highly skilled talent is no easy task, no matter the circumstances. With healthcare practitioners and facilities staff facing new challenges during the ongoing pandemic, many employers are struggling to successfully engage employees.

Healthcare occupations are projected to grow 15% from 2019 to 2029, faster than nearly any other industry, adding about 2.4 million new jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The aging population is leading to a greater demand for healthcare services, causing staffing shortages which have been exacerbated with the impact of COVID-19. This strain on hospitals is felt across the globe, and human resources and recruiting teams are adapting to find solutions in filling gaps in healthcare skills.

To address these needs, healthcare facilities are implementing innovative recruiting strategies to attract applicants and build efficient training programs to properly onboard and orient new hires. Not only must healthcare organizations find ways to create a sustainable talent pipeline, they must also prioritize current healthcare facilities team members by providing opportunities for growth to show long-term commitment to the team.

Job Postings & Onboarding: Start out on the right foot.

Working in healthcare can be tough at the best of times. Whether on the front lines treating patients in an emergency or behind the scenes ensuring the HVAC is running smoothly, healthcare workers of all stripes are committed to ensuring patients receive the treatment – and comfort – they need to recover.

COVID-19 made this much harder. While some facilities already faced staffing shortages, COVID patients’ longer hospital stays and more intense treatment needs further complicated the issue. Pressure was put on facilities staff, as patients filled available spaces and more beds were needed to treat them. It was a dynamic cycle as cases increased, and now we’re seeing those pressures again as new variants of concern emerge.

Being upfront about the realities of the job during the early stages like the job posting and onboarding process will ensure candidates understand the facility’s expectations. Candidates should know how a facility has been handling COVID-19, what challenges exist, and the path forward – including the hiring of new team members.

Engagement for New and Existing Employees

New team members should be set up for success from the moment they apply. A tried-and-true tactic for engaging new employees in the company culture is with a culture coach. Through a program like this, new hires are paired with veteran employees to authentically learn about the company culture and mission.  A coach can serve as a go-to contact for questions that may not be found in an employee handbook. 

This is not just a benefit for the new employee. Veteran employees serving as coaches also find fulfillment in this role. They become a spokesperson for their company based on their knowledge and experiences and being willing to share these experiences honestly is what makes for a good coach. 

Employee engagement doesn’t end after the onboarding process, either. It should extend over the lifetime of an individual’s career, and opportunities for professional development should be encouraged by managers. Allowing employees to explore and nurture their passions within the workplace or their industry can drive fulfilling connections to the work they do every day. Employers should be willing to invest in employees’ development. The organization’s commitment to an individual’s talents and interests can help build affinity for employees as they see they are valued as an employee and as a person within the organization.

Building the Pipeline

According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation and Washington Post survey, “Three in ten frontline health care workers say that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have considered no longer working in health care. This includes at least one-third of those working in administrative tasks or assisting with patient care like bathing and cleaning.” It is not a stretch to imagine this extends to healthcare facility workers. Landscapers, maintenance workers, janitors and food service employees are all part of the healthcare environment. If their facility is experiencing PPE shortages, burnt-out clinicians and an onslaught of COVID patients, these stressors are going to affect them, as well.

Much like addressing challenges upfront with interviewees and new hires, preparing future workforce members for the realities of the workplace is also important. As facilities staff build relationships with trade schools and high schools to tout the benefits of skilled work such as electricians or maintenance mechanics within healthcare facilities, they should also address the unique challenges in those healthcare settings. Conversely, facilities can take this same opportunity to share how fulfilling working in healthcare can be. Few industries directly impact the health and wellbeing of communities like a hospital, and maintaining beautiful facilities often means more to the visitors than people realize.

It has been a difficult year and a half for the healthcare industry, no matter the role. Now is the time to engage with your current employees and conduct outreach to potential new employees to build bridges to their fulfillment. Running a hospital and maintaining it as a beacon of support for the community will always be a full-time team effort, and the more your team is engaged, the better prepared you’ll be for any adversity that comes your way. 

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About the Author

Matthew Keahey serves as the National Vice President, Operations for Medxcel. Keahey oversees facilities management services for hospital sites throughout the U.S. and manages Medxcel’s proprietary integrated service delivery model while focusing on customer relations and strategic development. Medxcel provides healthcare service support products and drives in-house capabilities, savings and efficiencies for healthcare organizations.

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