Heart Month: 3 Ways Facilities Can Shift a Cardiac Care Crisis

American Heart Month: How to Promote Cardiac Care during a Clinical Workforce Shortage

February is American Heart Month, the perfect time to focus on promoting cardiac care in America’s hospitals and healthcare facilities. However, with surging cardiac care concerns and nursing workforce shortage, how can facilities maintain standards of patient care?

Celebrate this crucial time of the year by delving into today’s challenges in cardiac care and discover effective solutions to empower your nursing workforce this month and beyond.

Biggest Challenges of Cardiac Care in 2024

The challenges facing cardiac care have never been more acute. Foremost among them are more complex patients, and a nationwide deficit of nursing workforce and other healthcare professionals — a shortage that “threatens to destabilize the healthcare system,” warn the authors of a 2023 Methodist DeBakey Cardiovascular Journal article.

Shortage of Nursing & Clinical Workforce

A longstanding concern within the healthcare industry, the shortage of skilled workers only worsened during the post-pandemic “great resignation.” And it affects more than the nursing workforce, too. As the Mayo Clinic’s Eric Williamson, MD recently explained at the 2023 Society of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography (SCCT) meeting, allied cardiac care workers, and especially technologists, are also in short supply.

There are tens of thousands of open positions for allied medical imaging staff across the country, particularly in rural and remote areas. To cope with this shortage, some facilities are reducing scanning slots and worker availability. This directly illustrates how the shortage of workers is impacting patient care, even more troubling given the urgent nature of cardiac care services.

Even in areas without a shortage, facilities may find it hard to retain skilled professionals amid a rising rate of turnovers. That includes not just cardiac care units and cath labs, but challenges in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and other long-term care providers whose residents may be in advanced need of cardiac care. As the journal authors note, the “increase in workload burden is correlated with lower job satisfaction and higher intent to leave among direct care nurses.”

More Complex Cardiac Care Patients

Amid this historic shortage of workers, managing cardiovascular patients grows increasingly more complex each year. Here again, the labor shortage is only making things worse. The journal authors cite it as a driving factor in a spike in “healthcare-associated infections” since the pandemic.

This trend of higher-acuity patients also makes the demands on cardiac care workers even more intense. In general, cardiac care nurses now need a higher level of competency to deal with it.

The field has seen no shortages of new devices, therapies, and surgical techniques in recent years, as well as innovations in supporting technology, medication, and interventional methodology. There’s no doubt that these breakthroughs are promising. Yet finding cardiac care nurses with the skills to implement them can be difficult, making staffing these hard-to-fill positions even more of a challenge.

Tackle Cardiac Care Challenges in Your Nursing Workforce

So, in the face of these challenges, what can leaders do to set their organizations up for success in American Heart Month and beyond? Additionally, what steps can be taken to improve and promote quality cardiac care throughout the facilities and workforce they manage? They can begin with a focus on retention and training, exploring new nursing models, and securing access to contingency workers.

#1: Focus on Retention & Training

One way to deal with the shortage of cardiac care workers is by upgrading strategies for recruitment and retention. While this is always a priority for any healthcare workforce, it’s especially critical in cardiac care. Poaching of talented cardiac care workers is not uncommon, as Dr. Williams points out. And that makes them a natural and important focal point for active retention strategies. 

Offering expanded professional development opportunities helps raise the competency level of these important workers. This doesn’t just raise their skill level but can boost job satisfaction and retention, and even help improve patient outcomes. What’s more, making cardiac care jobs more rewarding can boost the quality of culture and serve as a powerful recruiting point.

This American Heart Month, Leaders can also grow their pool of qualified workers by emphasizing one-on-one training programs and mentorship programs specific to cardiac care. This can help inspire and motivate new techs to pursue cardiac CT. And the results of those efforts could be especially impactful in areas struggling with shortages of technologists.

“Healthcare institutions need to take responsibility for training technologists in cardiac CT,” as the journal authors write. “They should offer specialized training programs to equip technologists with the skills necessary to operate advanced CT scanners.”

> Looking for ways to promote professional development and training? Get an overview here

#2: Embrace New Staffing Models

Yes, the current shortage of healthcare labor poses significant challenges. But, as the journal authors state, it also “provides an ideal opportunity to revolutionize traditional models of care.” As noted, that overhaul includes education and training programs. In addition, though, leaders should consider changes to staffing and scheduling.

> Take a deeper dive into how nursing models have evolved since Covid-19

The authors advocate adopting a model that “incorporates virtual ICU nursing, acute care telenursing, and an expanded nursing education team into the traditional nursing practice model.” This can also help reduce “task-based workload,” they explain. And that could help not only boost competency levels among workers, but also retention.

#3: Improve Access to Skilled Workers

But perhaps the most important step for addressing labor shortages, even after American Heart Month, is with access to more skilled workers. Whether filling out a cardiac care unit or securing contingency staff for a skilled nursing facility, partnering with a third-party staffing provider can help ensure access to skilled and experienced workers when they’re needed the most.

Even better, expanded access to skilled workers can help reduce burnout and improve morale while also boosting outcomes. The complexities of cardiac care require “experienced, specialty trained nurses to ensure high-quality patient outcomes,” as the journal authors explain. Having a full contingent of skilled, trained and certified cardiac care nurses and clinicians can also help facilities avoid delays in cardiac care treatment and referrals, reduce hospital lengths of stay and rehospitalization rates, they add.

But finding those skilled workers is sometimes easier said than done. For facilities that may be struggling to find them, the contingency workers offered by a third-party workforce solutions partner can help ensure that current patient care goals are met while they continue to source permanent hires.

> Learn more about the benefits of contingency staffing — and how it can help healthcare leaders control their workforce budget

Overcome Cardiac Care Workforce Challenges at Your Facility

In need of cardiac care nurses, imaging techs, or other healthcare professionals? Looking to set up a long-term nursing workforce strategy or prevent staff shortages this American Heart Month? Either way, we’ve got you covered. Contact us today to discuss how CareerStaff’s Joint Commission-Certified solutions can help you meet your workforce needs. Or, take a quick moment to request staff now.