Changes ahead for the healthcare workforce: How to prepare

In a Sept. 30 webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review, two experts from AMN Healthcare — Marcia Faller, Ph.D., RN, chief clinical officer, and Brenda Fischer, PhD, RN, MBA, vice president of education and professional advancement — discussed what healthcare leaders can do to ensure effective workforce planning in the changing industry.

Several factors have combined in recent years to have a significant impact on the healthcare industry as a whole, and have also affected the industry's workforce, the panelists agreed.

"Pressures from the [Patient Protection and] Affordable Care Act, new models of care and new technologies are creating the need for new types of healthcare workers," Dr. Faller said. "This means that healthcare providers basically find themselves in need of specialty healthcare workers who aren't available through traditional supply paths."

On top of those pressures, the workforce is aging and many are reaching retirement age, meaning healthcare employers must plan ahead for when their employees inevitably exit the field. For example, the average age of a nurse in the United States is 44.6 years, according to Dr. Fischer.

With growing demand and dwindling supply when it comes to healthcare workers, many of the existing workers don't have the skills necessary to fill in the new roles, such as care coordinator positions.

Based on a poll during the webinar, 90 percent of attendees agreed they had heard about the growing need for new types of clinical and nonclinical healthcare workers because of the changes.

"The ability to quickly and effectively react to the changes in the industry will be the measure of an organization's long-term success," Dr. Fischer said.

Also during the webinar, Dr. Fischer presented AMN's new Center for Professional Advancement. The Center's mission is to advance practice, education and research in healthcare. It is a national strategic innovation collaborative and the organizing structure for healthcare workforce futures, academic progression program as well as a foundation for research and grants, she said.

"The intent is to have the center be a transformational destination for clinicians," enabled by a technology platform, she added.

Additionally, Dr. Fischer provided information on the Healthcare Futures program, part of the Center, which has a mission to build the future workforce using high-quality education and training programs. It is role-agnostic and customized to the client, and designed to deliver a new workforce supply so hospital and health system leaders can focus on patient care outcomes improvement.

Along with helping clients with their unique workforce supply needs, the Futures program also partners with professional associations and academic organizations to develop new, evidence-based education and training content. Candidates in the program commit to two years with the client after graduating from the program.

In addition to training clinicians for new roles, like that of a care coordinator, healthcare organizations also need to plan for the needs for the future.

"A sophisticated workforce planning and modeling process can help organizational leaders understand the relative cost, advantages and potential drawbacks of maintaining or changing current workforce arrangements, especially in light of [the] organization’s evolving goals," Dr. Fischer said.

She said a workforce building process should include the following components:

  • Analysis
  • Operational need
  • Proactive industry stance
  • Continuous improvement cycle/evaluation

Organizations that use the workforce building model process would usually revisit the program annually and readjust, but Dr. Fischer stressed the need for organizations to have a "living plan" with more frequent evaluation and adjustments in light of all the changes happening in the industry.

Finally, the webinar concluded by outlining key actions that will build leadership capacity to innovate, including the following:

  • Setting it as a strategic priority at the board level
  • Establishing a workforce planning committee with key stakeholders

Download the webinar presentation slides here.

View the webinar by clicking here. We suggest you download the video to your computer before viewing to ensure better quality. If you have problems viewing the video, which is in Windows Media Video format, you can use a program like VLC media player, free for download here.

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