How Sanford Health built an effective workforce management strategy

Hospital leaders should establish an effective workforce management strategy to help their organization remain strong and agile to address expected and unexpected challenges. 

This was what industry thought leaders concluded during an Aug. 12 webinar, hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by API Healthcare, now a part of symplr.

"Leadership, shared governance, and data create the foundation for a strong workforce management strategy, and robust technology needs to be the enabler to support this strategy," said Karlene Kerfoot, PhD, RN, chief nursing officer of symplr, who was one of the presenters. "A strong workforce management strategy creates a resilient organization that is focused on balanced outcomes and can successfully address planned challenges such as a Magnet journey and unplanned challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic."

Dr. Kerfoot was joined during the webinar by Diana Berkland, PhD, RN, vice president of nursing and clinical services of Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Sanford Health, and Meghan Goldammer, RN, chief nursing officer at Sanford Health.

For the entire leadership team at Sanford health, building a strong workforce management strategy that delivers balanced outcomes is a priority. As Ms. Goldammer explains, "We as a management team — not just nursing leadership, but also HR leadership, finance leadership, data and analytics — everyone agreed that we really saw our workforce as an investment and not an expense in our organization. That needed to be our vision all the way to the point of care. We knew that we needed a balanced approach; this was not all about productivity. We also had to bring in clinical outcomes to see this vision become reality."

Here are the four critical steps Sanford Health employs to achieve a successful workforce strategy, as identified by Dr. Berkland and Ms. Goldammer:

1. The manager or director is CEO of their department. Each department manager or director is accountable for the budget and other structural components of their area. They also have the resources they need for optimal job performance.

2. The culture supports cross-training of staff. Nurses are managed by the head of their unit. But they are also oriented to different units within the organization to learn various job functions. "For the most part, nurses are not resistant to moving from department to department as long as they are provided with skills, competency so they can provide the care they want to provide," said Dr. Berkland.

3. A workforce governance council was created. Decision-makers who are invested in staffing and workforce join forces to discuss organizational direction and standardization. For example, Sanford set up the workforce governance council, which was an interprofessional council made up of people in finance, nursing, payroll, informatics and human resources. "We really had to get everybody to the table to make sure we could move forward in a standardized fashion" with the workforce management strategy, said Ms. Goldammer. "But I think what was also key was someone at a high enough level directing this work. We implemented a coordinator that reported directly to my office who helps keep this work on track and kind of horizontally integrates the team. That was key for us to have that governance council in place."

4. Technology focus supports strategy and culture. Technology should complement staffing goals and objectives the organization is trying to achieve, according to presenters. They recommended using technology to support broad departments beyond nursing as well as using available technology to make data-driven workforce decisions.

To view the webinar and access additional resources about Sanford Health's workforce management initiative, click here. To learn more about symplr and API Healthcare, click here.


More articles on workforce:

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OSHA must speed up its handling of whistleblower complaints, inspector general says
Confirmed healthcare worker COVID-19 deaths, by state

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