Address the nurse shortage in 2020 and beyond: 5 Key takeaways for hospital leaders

The U.S. is in the midst of a nursing shortage, which has only been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. For healthcare facilities across the country, the ability to hire and retain nurses, and fully engage its workforce is more important than ever.

During a July 28 webinar sponsored by Incredible Health and hosted by Becker's Hospital Review, David Jones, chief human resources officer at Stanford Health Care (Calif.), and Iman Abuzeid, MD, CEO of Incredible Health, discussed nurse hiring challenges, strategies to retain nurses and how human resources leaders help health systems achieve their goals.

Five takeaways from the webinar:

1. Nurse shortages are on the rise. U.S. hospitals will face a shortage of more than one million nurses by 2024, which is the biggest employment crisis in the country, according to Dr. Abuzeid. Nurses represent an average annual turnover of 17 percent for hospitals and the median time it takes to hire a permanent specialized nurse is 82 days. "Understaffing also puts patients, staff and hospitals at risk," Dr. Abuzeid said, contributing to higher operating costs, increased burnout and a reduced quality of care.

2. Nurse hiring challenges. Nurse scarcity, high costs of living and custom needs of nurse leaders are the three main obstacles in recruiting nurses, according to Mr. Jones. Demand for nurses to staff intensive care units, operating rooms and emergency rooms is particularly high. However, there is a limited talent pool to pull from. As many of the nation's nurses age out of the workforce, fewer nurses are available to replace those entering retirement. "We see that as a concern as the population continues to age," Mr. Jones said. "As the demand for healthcare increases, the situation is only going to get worse." 

3. Incredible Health helps healthcare providers hire high-quality permanent nurses in less than 30 days through its custom-matching technology. Employers apply to candidates, instead of the other way around. The platform creates a sense of urgency as employers apply to and compete directly for the talent, "which increases hiring efficiency by 25 times and increases hiring speed by three times," according to Dr. Abuzeid. The platform also equips human resources and nursing leaders with data analytics to improve internal processes and decision-making.

4. Key strategies driving nursing retention. The national average hospital turnover rate for nurses is 17.8 percent. By focusing on career advancement opportunities, compensation and work life balance, Stanford Health Care managed to beat the national average and achieve a retention rate of 6 percent. The health system ensures it has an adequate staff of nurses to cover all shifts and allow for scheduling flexibility. The organization also offers part-time options for younger or older nurses with child care or elder care responsibilities. It also offers competitive compensation packages and invests in developing nurses through mentorship and shared governance programs focused on patient care and quality.

5. The role of human resources and nursing leaders. Human resources staff and nursing leaders are business leaders first and foremost, according to Mr. Jones, and have to manage the organization "in a way that helps us achieve our goals and provide and support the delivery of patient care." Talent acquisition works closely with hiring managers and business leaders to help achieve better outcomes and improve the patient experience, as well as reducing overtime, hitting annual budgets and supporting revenue growth. "We're constantly thinking about how we can be cost-effective and how we can understand what our business leaders are struggling with," he said, "How do we align with [their goals] to ensure that the work we do supports them?"

Click here to learn more about Incredible Health. To view the full webinar, click here.

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