How to effectively hire and retain healthcare staff amidst burnout, labor shortages and costs

Updated on June 5, 2023

Hiring and retaining healthcare staff can be challenging, especially given the current climate of burnout, labor shortages and labor costs. The healthcare industry continues to face pandemic-driven workforce challenges related to healthcare staffing. The United States is facing a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by 2034, including 48,000 primary care physicians, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, and hospitals are currently facing shortages of registered nurses as burnout and other factors drive them to other roles. Healthcare organizations are being forced to make adjustments to combat these challenges and effectively recruit and retain the best healthcare personnel. 

Competitive compensation 

Healthcare workers are in high demand, and offering competitive salaries, benefits and incentives can help attract and retain talented staff. There’s a chasm between what healthcare professionals expect their compensation to entail and what healthcare organizations are offering. During the pandemic, the rates for healthcare professionals skyrocketed, and while healthcare organizations are attempting to go back to “normal,” healthcare professionals still want pandemic rates. 

Offering competitive compensation and benefits is about finding the middle ground between what  healthcare professionals deem an appropriate value for the services they’re providing and what hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare organizations believe is the best rate for services rendered.

Compensation doesn’t only have to come in the form of paychecks and traditional benefits. If healthcare organizations are struggling with labor costs, they can offer benefits like medical insurance, retirement plans, tuition reimbursement and other financial incentives. Additionally, organizations can offer professional development, including education programs, mentorship opportunities and opportunities to advance within the organization.

Positive work culture

Healthcare workers are at a high risk of burnout due to the nature of their job, which can be physically and emotionally demanding. Oftentimes, healthcare professionals provide more than medical treatment; they contribute to patients’ and their families’ support systems. During the pandemic, healthcare staff to patient ratios were at an all time high, and to compound that, many healthcare professionals saw more healthcare related deaths than they normally would. Caring for patients and getting to know their families adds a personal and emotional element to the healthcare profession. To help mitigate emotional burnout, healthcare organizations can provide mental health resources and support services, as well as offer mental health days off for healthcare professionals to recharge. 

Additionally, happy and satisfied employees positively affect the organization as a whole. Research shows that improving employee engagement can boost patient satisfaction and other elements of the patient experience. People who want to come to work and enjoy their jobs are people that feel valued and experience a positive work environment. One way to promote job satisfaction is showing recognition and appreciation. Physicians and nurses put in years of studying and training to become healthcare professionals, and the job itself isn’t easy. They often work long hours caring for patients, so offering recognition and appreciation for the hard work and dedication can help communicate the value they bring to the organization. Simple gestures such as verbal praise or public recognition can go a long way in boosting morale and retaining staff.

To improve job satisfaction and reduce turnover, it’s important that organizations foster a positive working environment. To support a positive workplace culture, healthcare organizations can develop a culture of respect, appreciation, open communication, encourage teamwork and provide opportunities for staff to provide feedback and have their voices heard.

Increase recruitment efforts

It can be helpful for healthcare organizations to increase recruiting efforts. Many resources are available including online job boards, social media and recruiting firms. Healthcare recruiting firms are in a unique position to be a liaison between employee and employer. The recruiting specialists can do the research, ask the right questions and assist in making a great employment match where the healthcare organization and the healthcare professional align on workplace culture and compensation, ultimately resulting in better retention.

Another great way to expand recruiting efforts is to look at the future of healthcare. Healthcare organizations can partner with local universities, colleges and vocational schools to begin building relationships with the healthcare professionals of tomorrow. Sending representatives to these institutions and offering internships or mentorship programs allows organizations to build a rapport with students who will be graduating soon and have a head start in hiring the newest generation of healthcare professionals.

Utilize technology

Technology can help streamline workflows, create efficiencies, and provide support and reduce the workload for healthcare workers, ultimately improving patient care. Implementing technology to streamline processes and reduce administrative burdens on healthcare staff can free up more time for patient care and reduce staff burnout. 

With the right technology in place, healthcare organizations can help healthcare professionals have a more efficient workflow and quick access to resources, supporting better patient health outcomes, increased clinician job satisfaction and decreased burnout.

In conclusion, healthcare staffing has always been a competitive market. Hiring and retaining healthcare talent amidst burnout, labor shortages and labor costs requires a multifaceted approach. By making adjustments, implementing new recruiting and retention strategies, and considering the current healthcare staffing climate, healthcare organizations can create a positive work environment that attracts and retains talented staff, reduces burnout and improves patient care.

Leigh Pace is Chief Operating Officer of Healthcare Services at Loyal Source
Leigh Pace

Leigh Pace is Chief Operating Officer of Healthcare Services at Loyal Source.