How Do Holidays Affect Healthcare? 4 Healthcare Staffing Issues

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Most people think of the holidays as a time of celebration and joy. But for those who work in healthcare, it often brings anxiety, depression and even burnout. More patients and fewer available workers can make this a stressful time for leaders, too. With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the most common obstacles to successful holiday healthcare staffing, along with some tips to overcome them.

Holiday Healthcare Staffing Challenges and Solutions

#1: More Patients

The number of admitted patients usually surges during the holidays, especially in the emergency room. It’s a time when “respiratory viruses surge, car accidents increase and worried family members bring their elderly relatives they may be visiting in for a checkup,” as one EM doctor explained to NBC News.

Yes, holiday travel and parties may lead to more car accidents (and, unfortunately, a greater tendency for drunk driving). But household accidents also spike during this time. Tens of thousands of such accidents occur each holiday season from home decorating, reports the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). Everything from stepping on an ornament to falling off a ladder can lead to an unexpected ER visit.

Other holiday-related accidents include fires caused by cooking big holiday meals, Christmas trees and candles, and malfunctioning electrical decorations. Toy injuries also cause hundreds of thousands of injuries each year, according to another CPSC report.

What’s the solution?

It might seem like healthcare facility leaders have little control over patient behavior during the holidays. Nonetheless, they can still work to raise awareness of safety best practices.

For instance, reminders on fire prevention, safe and sober driving, and careful supervision of children can all help keep people safe and out of the hospital during the holidays. Some ways to do this include sending emails and newsletters to patients, posting flyers in facilities, giving advice in patient consultations, and even taking out ads in local newspapers and on radio stations.

#2: Decreased Patient Engagement

On top of increased healthcare utilization, outcomes tend to suffer during the holidays. CNN Health cited a study in which researchers found that “roughly a third” of patients discharged during Christmas and New Year’s experienced slightly higher rates of readmission and even mortality.

Researchers attribute this statistic to the fact that people don’t want to spend time in the hospital during the holidays. As a result, they’re “considerably less likely” to follow up with their care team than other times of the year.

What’s the solution?

Leaders can work to offset this trend by making sure staff is more supportive, communicative and responsive to patient questions. They should also emphasize the importance of following up after visits and tests. Consultations and outreach campaigns can also help encourage patients to bring a list of medications when they arrive.

#3: High Stress Levels Among Staff

Working during the holidays can affect the emotional wellbeing of staff. For instance, a 2021 survey from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) found that 54% of healthcare professionals say that their “stress level increases during the holiday season.” What’s more, that only grew worse with Covid-19, with 33% of clinicians anticipating more holiday stress in 2021 than 2020.

And the anticipation of that stress only makes things worse. Poorer mental health means workers may work less effectively. They may also be more prone to absenteeism at the worst possible time for patients, leaders, and, of course, other clinical workers.

What’s the solution?

Leaders should work to support healthcare workers’ emotional, mental and physical wellbeing at all time, not just the holidays. Luckily, a suite of best practices has evolved to help them do just that. Some of these tactics include offering flexible scheduling, a more supportive culture, and guidance to engage in mental health wellness and self-care.

Pro Tip: Discover how to preventing staff burnout and how to offer flexible scheduling with the help of contingency staff support!

#4: Healthcare Staffing Shortages

Perhaps the biggest challenge of holiday healthcare staffing is dealing with ongoing labor shortages.

Difficult during any time of year, these shortages tend to intensify in November and December. And that can lead to a number of negative scenarios, such as poorer patient outcomes, delays in important procedures, and the inability to meet the staffing ratios required by the states where you operate.  

A number of factors drive labor scarcity during the holidays, like the increased healthcare staff absenteeism noted above. In addition, more senior workers usually reserve that time for vacations, leaving managers with fewer staff members during the holidays. And in this case, those who remain tend to be less experienced, which can create additional problems if utilization surges.

What’s the solution?

An established and reliable healthcare recruitment provider can help ensure that facilities have the backup staff for any unexpected absences. And by offering a nationwide supply of contingency workers like travel and per diem nurses and clinicians, those partners can also help ensure that regular staff get the time off they need and deserve without putting operations or outcomes at risk.

> Take action: Learn more about the benefits of outsourced recruitment solutions, or request contingency staff now.

Find Your Ideal Holiday Healthcare Staffing Solution

Happy Holidays from CareerStaff! For over 30 years, we’ve been proud to help healthcare organizations meet their staffing needs not just during the holidays, but all year long. And we do it with services that are certified by The Joint Commission and validated by our inclusion on the Staffing Industry Analysts List of Largest Staffing Firms.  

From everyone here at the CareerStaff team, happy holidays, and best wishes in the year ahead! Whether you need contingency workers or help improving your overall workforce strategy, we’re standing by to help. Contact us today to request more info, or request staff now.

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