Physician and nurse shortages: a multi-dimensional approach for recruitment and retention

According to a 2022 report from the U.S. Surgeon General, the United States will face a shortage of 3.2 million healthcare workers by 2026 and a shortage of 139,000 physicians by 2033. In addition, nearly two-thirds of physicians today (63 percent) report being burned out. 

At Becker's Hospital Review's 13th Annual Meeting, Vista Staffing Solutions sponsored an executive roundtable to explore the current healthcare workforce landscape and best practices for addressing physician and nurse shortages. Three industry experts facilitated the session:

  • N. Adam Brown, MD, MBA, Emergency Medicine physician; Professor of Practice, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill; founder / Principal of ABIG Health
  • Lisa Ellis, Vice President, VISTA Staffing Solutions, Inc.
  • Adam Rousey, Chief Sales Officer, VISTA Staffing Solutions, Inc.

Five key takeaways were: 

  1. Several macrotrends are influencing care delivery at hospitals. These trends include reimbursement that continues to decline and value-based care that is pushing patients to settings outside the four walls of a hospital. As consumerism grows, many patients are seeking care through telehealth and walk-in clinics. Government regulations and legal challenges are also impacting talent management at hospitals.

  2. To promote employee engagement, hospitals must take a multi-dimensional approach. "Engaged employees are happy, productive and connected to their teams," Dr. Brown said. "They want to be there. To increase the engagement of your clinical team, you must focus on the right product, the right target, the right marketing and the right future." In terms of product, compensation and the environment are both very important. Candidates want to know whether their workload will be predictable and whether the organization will support them functionally and psychologically. 

  3. Marketing to candidates must be targeted, direct and honest. "Culture matters — now more than ever, you must be authentic in your communications when you explain what you have to offer employees," Ms. Ellis said. Marketing is more than social media. Many hospitals have seen great results from handwritten, personalized outreach to candidates. "When a healthcare professional arrives home and isn't happy with their current job, there's nothing like receiving something personal at home. That kind of interaction outperforms mass emails and other mass distributed communications," Mr. Rousey said. 

  4. Offer employees a promising future. It's important to define growth and development pathways for clinical staff, as well as educational opportunities. "Involve your physicians and nurses in meetings about the business of the hospital," Dr. Brown said. "Share the challenges that the organization is facing and include them in problem solving. Coming to decisions together is good for employee engagement."

  5. It's never too early to create talent pipelines. In addition to targeting both active and passive candidates, hospitals must cultivate relationships with universities and colleges, as well as community partnerships. If your organization decides to partner with a third-party staffing firm, conduct thorough due diligence in advance. "Make sure they understand your pain points and insist that they contractually agree to your KPIs and SLAs," Mr. Rousey said. "The workforce landscape is changing so quickly in healthcare — ensure your partnerships are innovative, flexible and truly committed to your short and long term success.”

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